There are various issues that managers in the non-league game have to contend with from week to week.
They may not have to endure the constant shine of the media spotlight but they do have to deal with tight budgets, losing players to rivals for an extra £30 a week and squads who are perhaps less tactically astute than their gaffer may wish.
A big issue that non-league chiefs have to cope with is sourcing the best talent around, without the luxury of a scouting team and usually while having to keep a full-time job in tow.
Many managers may be able to watch potential targets on TV or jet out to the continent and watch players, but how exactly do managers in the Conference and lower assess potential signings and get the very best players out there?
By and large it’s a mixture of three things. Good contacts, a lengthy amount of time on the road and, perhaps most importantly, having an eye for a player’s potential, sometimes based solely on 90 minutes of football.
Different managers may place more of an emphasis on one of these over the others but they all play a part in how well a manager can cope in non-league football.
Contacts are one major issue that many managers have had problems with, more often than not when it comes to big names dropping into non-league from upper echelons.
You may have had a lengthy career in the higher leagues but, without someone to call on for a favour or to ask about a particular prospect, you can quickly find yourself swimming against the tide.
Similarly, if managers lack the time or effort to go watch games in their area, then they too can struggle. It’s widely believed that Neil Young, manager of Chester FC, for example asked for his side’s games to regularly take place on Wednesday nights rather than the usual Tuesdays, so he can check out the competition and look at potential players.
He’s not alone either. Gary Lowe, the man who got Hyde FC promoted to the Blue Square Bet Premier last season, says it’s vital to get out and about to games when you have chance.
“When you’re in work you obviously can’t make Saturday games so you try get to one midweek and I have a decent network of contacts who will flag things up for me, players that they’ve seen,” he said.
“In terms of higher clubs in the Football League a lot of them don’t have reserve leagues anymore so they arrange friendlies for their younger lads and I go along to those and see 18, 19 and 20-year old lads who you could have on loan.
“You throw that all together and that’s basically how you find players. I think some managers will have more contacts than others and that largely decides how much success you have.”
Finally, and this is true for whatever level you manage at, there is the innate ability to spot that flash of talent or piece of trickery that makes a player stand out.
This becomes even more important at non-league level however, as one diamond in the rough could end up securing a club’s future for decades if they turn out to be among the lucrative non-league buys such as Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, Huddersfield’s Jermaine Beckford or West Brom’s Craig Dawson.
Lowe continues: “In non-league you don’t always have as much time. You don’t get the opportunity to watch players as often and there’s always clubs around that have got more money than you and they’ll act fast. You’ve got to take a little bit of a gamble sometimes and only see a player maybe once or twice.
“You can get caught cold because you’d like to go watch someone three or four times but you don’t always get that chance in non-league football.”
So, while for other managers it’s all about distributing scouts here, there and everywhere, or in Harry Redknapp’s case, waiting for the chairman to fire up his Xbox, for non-league managers it’s about getting in their cars after work and heading to midweek games across the country.
As inconvenient as this can be, it’s more often than not the difference between success and failure.
Image courtesy of Paul Prole.
Matt Rogerson is a writer and a press officer for Guiseley AFC. You can follow him on twitter here.