PARK LIFE, IT’S THE GOOD LIFE
Experience leads Bower up the right Avenue
MARK BOWER says experience is the key to Bradford Park Avenue’s unexpected promotion push.
Bower led a great escape last season in steering Avenue to survival in National League North against all odds.
Now, after making a raft of top summer signings, the club are challenging at the other end of the table and looking up, not down.
Avenue have proved to be the surprise package of this year’s North division with Bower’s men occupying the last play-off spot ahead of yesterday’s trip to much-improved York City.
And Bower believes his squad have all the ingredients to continue upsetting the odds and clear the final hurdle into Non-League’s topflight – just like he did at former club Guiseley.
“We’ve probably got the oldest squad in the league, but with that comes many benefits,” Bower told The NLP. “We have players in the ranks with plenty of experience and knowhow of turning tight games into victories, and that’s what we’ve been able to do so far this season.
“We have players in the squad who have won promotions, reaching play-off finals and this stands us in good stead when it comes to big one-off games and the tense end-of-season run-in.
“Of course, there is certainly room for improvement but I’m optimistic we can be in and amongst it still come the end of the season and if we can squeeze into the play-offs, then who knows?”
Bower, of course, has been here before, leading Guiseley to promotion from the National League North for the first time in the club’s history in 2014-15 and then steering the Lions to top-flight safety before parting company with the club a month into the 2016-17 season.
“It’s a tough league, more so than ever this season,” the 37-year-old former Bradford City defender added. “It’s so tight, any of the top 15 clubs will believe they have a chance to get into the play-offs.
“We’ve competed at this level for a while now and when it comes to resources, we should be near the bottom, not near the top. We can’t compete with the Salfords, Stockports and Yorks of this world as we have to run a very tight ship, but we’ve given ourselves a good chance.
“We’ve seen so many ups and downs and there’s many more to come. Just this last week or so, we saw Nuneaton beat Harrogate, FC United beat Salford City and Darlington slip into the bottom three, it’s crazy.
“At Guiseley, my job was to stabilise and start again, but this is a bit different. This club has a proud history as a former Football League club and that is where we want to be again.
“We’re in a big city and there is a lot of work going on to upgrade the facilities at the ground and in the academy in order to help the club progress.
“We are certainly ahead of schedule, hopefully having the experience of getting Guiseley up will stand me and my staff in good stead for the rest of the season.”