Non-League Football: Sterland's quest

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The Independent Online
IN HIS 15-year professional career, Mel Sterland played many FA Cup ties for Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, but he will be treading new territory tomorrow.

Sterland makes his debut in the FA Cup first qualifying round when his Boston United side entertain Harwich and Parkeston. The 32- year-old Yorkshireman, who also played for Rangers and won one cap for England, was appointed the player-manager of the Northern Premier League club in the summer, 18 months after an ankle injury ended his League career.

'I didn't really know what I was going to do after I left Leeds,' Sterland said yesterday. 'The Boston job was the first one I applied for.'

He may be an apprentice as a manager, but he has enjoyed a good start. The unbeaten Lincolnshire side are third in the Premier Division and look to have a good chance of reclaiming the GM Vauxhall Conference place they lost in 1993. They have found the net 18 times in six league games - and Sterland has contributed three of the goals, despite his switch from his usual full-back role to sweeper.

'It's not easy to play and manage, even at this level,' Sterland said, 'but I'm enjoying it.'

He has secured some notable new players, including Simon Mills, the former Sheffield Wednesday, Port Vale and York midfielder, but his most significant signing is his new No 2, Ron Reid, the assistant-manager of the England semi-professional team. He provides the depth of non- League knowledge that Sterland has yet to acquire.

'You have to appreciate that players at this level work for a living,' he said. 'Some get up at 4am to do their jobs before training or matches. They work a lot harder than most professionals.'