Colne boss Steve Cunningham jokes that the stresses and strains of management have “put 10 years on me”.
But it will all be worth it if he and his swashbuckling young side achieve their goal of promotion.
The Reds’ destiny is in their own hands after a topsy-turvy Easter weekend, in which Colne led 2-0 at Widnes, only to lose 3-2, before beating Clitheroe 3-0 on Monday to climb into the Evo-Stik West Division play-off places.
Victory at relegated Skelmersdale United tomorrow will ensure Colne extend their season, with a play-off semi-final pencilled in for Wednesday.
However, if the Reds do earn that date, it means Monday’s prestigious LFA Challenge Trophy Final with National League North Southport will drop down their list of priorities.
Cunningham is devastated that a big night for the club could almost be an inconvenience, but he said: “I said from the outset, but we would have to prioritise the play-off semi-final, if – and I stress, it is still if – we get there.
“I would be devastated – you’re in it to win it – but when you spend 38 weeks of your life, three days a week, away from your family, missing my boy’s football on a Saturday, I’m doing it for a reason, and that is to be promoted, not win the LFA Challenge Trophy.
“We’ve beaten clubs like Bamber Bridge to get to the final, but we would have to send a scratch team, against a full-time squad, so I can only apologise to the fans who have already bought tickets.
“Ideally, we can win the final and win promotion, which would be fantastic.”
Cunningham isn’t taking tomorrow’s trip to Prescot lightly, despite Skelmersdale sitting rock bottom: “They have been relegated, but that is a danger to us.
“We have to approach it as our biggest game of the season – which it is, like we are playing the top of the league for promotion.
“We certainly won’t be taking it lightly.
“We need to get that win, but all we could have asked for is for it to be in our control, and it is after Monday.”
Cunningham’s aim, he smiles, is to “get Colne on the Sky Sports vidiprinter”, which they would be in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
But, come what may, he could not be prouder of his players: “To lose in the play-offs two years ago, and miss out on the play-offs on goal difference last year – to be where we are is fantastic.
“We have bettered our points tally again, with a team where eight of my starting XI are 21 or under, so it has been a fantastic season either way.”