Former Brighton & Hove Albion winger and current Lewes manager Darren Freeman highlighted the importance of Non-League Day, and the role that the lower divisions play in developing younger players.
Freeman highlighted the boost which non-league clubs receive from the annual initiative, which helps to raise vital funds for sides lower down the football pyramid.
He said, “It’s important for non-league teams to get the publicity, and hopefully it adds to the number of people coming through the doors at their local clubs.
“Ultimately that will translate into more revenue and like all smaller clubs, that’s what they need.
“We are away at Potters Bar this weekend, and it’s a shame we’re not at home, but I am sure the local people in that area will get behind their club.
“It’s all about bringing people through the turnstiles and hopefully they will get to see a good game of football.”
The current Rooks manager progressed through the non-league ranks before featuring for Fulham, Brentford and Albion, and he feels it has become a valuable stepping stone to the professional game.
“I’ve played non-league football, and you’ve either gone to work in a nine-to-five job or you’ve been on a building site all day, before playing in the evening or on a weekend in the hope you’ll get spotted.
“It makes you hungrier and it’s a massive change when you go to a professional club where you’re waited on hand and foot.
“It’s massively important that the professional clubs support the non-league ones, as they can also help some of their younger players gain experience and learn the need to fight for three points each week.”
Freeman also touched on his time as a player at Brighton, and spoke about how his experience with the Seagulls inspired him to go into coaching.
“I probably fulfilled every boy’s dream to play for their hometown club. I had played against them many times and in the back of my mind I always wanted to play for the club I supported as a child.
“Unfortunately I had to retire from professional football to an injury, which held me back. I had some good times at Brighton, such as getting the first league goals at Withdean and getting the club’s first goal of the millennium. It was also a bit frustrating that I couldn’t fulfil my potential.
“When you get told you can’t play professional football again, so many thoughts go through your head. I feel like I lost my identity as a person and was in a bit of a bad place. That made me want to give something back to footballers, which is what I feel I am doing now.
"I want to help them progress and give them what I had. I had a few years of great times and was fortunate enough to play professional, so I want to help young lads get their dreams.”