DEANO BROWNE strikes an imposing figure as he strolls around Newton Aycliffe’s Moore Lane Park ground.

The youngest Northern League boss is gearing up for only his second full season as a manager, as other typical signs of pre-season preparations are evident at the County Durham club.

Chairman Allan Oliver – the former manager who’s not shy of getting his hands dirty – digs three-feet deep trenches around the goalmouth areas, part of a £9,000 programme to improve drainage on the playing surface, as the 6ft 5ins Browne is busy trying to sweet-talk players into joining the club for the 2018-19 season after adding two new assistant managers to his coaching set-up.

As sleepy summers go, Moore Lane Park is buzzing already.

Browne – who’s well-known in Darlington after working for the club’s Football in the Community programme since he was 16 – is slowly putting his own stamp on Aycliffe, a club which is looking forward to its ninth consecutive season in the Northern League first division.

The 31-year-old took over as joint-manager along with Dan Mellanby in December 2016 after a spell in charge at Norton and Stockton Ancients.

They have steadied the ship, guiding the club through a tricky period which saw it lose connection with some fans and its community.

With some of that damage repaired, Mellanby has now handed the reins over to Browne as sole manager, to concentrate on a new role forging stronger links with the town’s youth teams, and Aycliffe’s boss is looking forward to the next stage of his fledgling career.

But don’t be fooled by what some onlookers might tag as inexperienced.

“My CV might say I’ve only been a manger for three years, but it hasn’t been an overnight thing,” says Browne, who works full-time as a coach for the Martin Gray Football Academy.

“I worked for Darlington FC’s Community set-up from the age of 16, so I’ve been on the training ground for a lot of years, plying my trade as a coach and learning all the time, and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to become a Northern League manager.

“I work full-time for Martin Gray, coaching young people in schools across the whole of the North-East, so I’m involved in football and learning from it every single day.”

Browne admits he was “no fleeting footballer” after playing one Northern League game for Darlington RA, but history has proven that you don’t need to have been a good player to become a top manager (Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, cases in point).

But while working as a coach during the day, he always had ambitions of becoming a manager.

“I was a coach at Norton under Adam Rundle when he was sacked after two games, and I was offered the job,” he says. “At 29, I didn’t expect it, but I took it because I saw it as a great opportunity.

“We had a very limited budget, money was really tight and in the end we did well to finish second bottom and were relegated.

“I felt we could bring them back up and I was ready to take that on, but it didn’t work out off the field and the club folded, which was very sad.”

Browne then turned down an offer to become manager of another Northern League side after receiving a surprise call from Mellanby a little over 18 months ago.

“I’d actually had an interview with another club and I’d verbally agreed a deal before Dan called me out of the blue and asked if I’d fancy a pop at Aycliffe,” reveals Browne.

“He really sold it to me, so I spoke to Allan Oliver and decided to go for it. I felt we did well to pick things up and finish where we did.

“Because of the situation at the club, nine or 10 players left instantly and we didn’t have enough players to field a team, I think we signed nine players in a week and from there on in it was a case of stabilising.

“Last season was difficult again, we’re competing with big budgets but we were happy to finish 14th – I’d have taken that after the first five games.”

The ambitious Browne seems determined to get off to a flying start ahead of the 2018-19 season. He has appointed former Aycliffe club captain Sean Tarling and ex-Darlington youth coach Andrew Jinks as his assistant managers.

The double appointment might raise a few eyebrows, given the pair’s lack of coaching experience in the Northern League, but Browne seems keen to take a leaf from the book of Gray, who appears to be very much his mentor.

“Martin has been a big influence on me,” he says. “He involved me in some of the first team training sessions at Darlington and I picked up a lot – from Martin, Brian Atkinson and Sean Gregan.

“They gave me a chance to get involved and I think it’s important to give young people a chance. You see clubs at all levels giving ex-pros a chance before the young coaches who’ve gone through the system and done the courses. Playing experience isn’t everything.

“Sean Tarling and Andrew Jinks have the right work ethic and skill sets for us to bring a fresh impetus to the club which it needs.”

Gray, meanwhile, is delighted to see one of his star pupils excel.

“Deano is a listener and he’s constantly on to me about new ideas,” says the former Darlington boss.

“He lives and breathes football and as a coach he’s second to none. I’ve every confidence he’ll do well with Aycliffe.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the club, I know the lads there very well and we’ve played there a few times, it’s a great club and I wish them well.”

As the on-field preparations at Moore Lane gather pace, lots of off-field work is also coming to fruition.

Ebac and SE Landscaping have renewed their shirt deals – usually always the most important sponsorship deals to close during the summer – while Aycliffe has also recognised it needs to reconnect with local people, particularly youngsters.

Mellanby has taken on a new job behind the scenes to develop some of the work that has already been done with local youth teams.

There’s clearly a lot of groundwork being done at Aycliffe this summer, building on some solid foundations.

“But in Northern League terms we’re still a baby,” insists Browne. “There are clubs that have been around for decades, some of them have budgets we can’t compete with. We're not one of the biggest spenders, but we will be one of the hardest workers, I can guarantee that.

“I’d love to finish in the top ten, just to show that steady progress, get the club some stability and look to the future and where we can go from there.

“But first and foremost our aim is to stay in the division.”