Former Middlesbrough and Manchester City midfielder Jamie Pollock is relishing life as manager of Northern League Division Two club Billingham Synthonia.
It hasn’t been without its difficulties, as Pollock’s young side take on the numerous challenges that the sixth-tier of non-league football can provide.
After a difficult start to the season, Synners are showing signs of life.
A 4-0 win at struggling Durham City – their third in their four games – moved Pollock’s side into the top eight of the division.
Young players like Alex Bruton (19), James Frazer (18) and Dominic Tiffany (20) all showed up well, trying to play an attractive brand of football on a challenging pitch at Hall Lane.
Callum Smith – a relative veteran at 21 – stole the show with a clinical hat-trick and the hardworking Louis Johnson – once a Newcastle United academy striker – also caught the eye.
Youth is getting its chance, and Pollock insisted that the club would continue to give youngsters a chance to find their feet after the disappointment of being released from professional academy systems.
“Experience is a great thing,” explained the former England Under-21 midfielder.
“Maybe in the early part of the season we didn’t have that character, or that ingredient if you like.
“It’s about getting a mixture and getting a blend.
“You get experience by playing games and young players quite often get left.
“We have seen many young players come out of Newcastle, Sunderland, and they find it hard to go on and deal with disappointment.
“We like to think we are the type of club that can help them out in that situation by helping them play right and train right.
“If you believe in your football, and your football philosophy, you have to stick to it.”
It hasn’t been an easy season for Pollock and his players.
They had to wait until their sixth game of the campaign to find their first win in any competition – by which time they had already been knocked out of the FA Cup by North West Counties League club Barnoldswick Town.
Any hopes of an FA Vase were ended by a brave defeat at Northern League Division One high-fliers Hebburn Town.
But the league form slowly improved, Pollock’s youngsters found their feet and the 45-year-old Synners boss stressed that he will continue to stick to the clear philosophy that he has in place at the club.
“We don’t want to be a normal Northern League team, we want to play football and we want to do it our way.
“If we have to do things slower, that’s what we will do.
“We have no questions over the players in terms of footballing ability.
“What we are now asking them is to grow up quickly and learn the mentality of the Northern League.
“Then the quality will shine through.
“We have time on our side, and we have a good young group.
“We attack teams and that’s a good sign.”
The biggest challenges lie ahead for Synners.
Several of the club’s young players have already captured the attention of clubs higher up the non-league pyramid.
Pollock is realistic – departures are almost inevitable.
But he also believes that the club are now well-placed to continue taking advantage of the “conveyer belt of young players” that are progressing through their youth system.
He said “We will see a lot of these young lads wanted by higher clubs than us.
“Obviously wages will come into play, but we have a lot of young players coming through.
“We have a bit of a conveyer belt of young players with under 16’s moving up, so we are pretty calm.
“We are realistic, but as a club, the most important thing is to have a belief, a pathway and a philosophy.
“We will be sticking to that."