Few footballers will know quite as much about the high and lows from Workington Reds’ recent history as Gari Rowntree.

Having first signed for his hometown club in 2007, Rowntree has become a popular figure at Borough Park, despite a brief stint at now-defunct Carlisle-based club Celtic Nation.

“I did leave briefly. But I came here when I was 20, and other than leaving briefly in one season before I came right back, I have always played here,” explains the defender.

“I have seen quite a few managers and different things change at the club, with quite a few different captains leading the team, as well.

“It’s been up and down but I have enjoyed it, to be honest.

"I suppose, that’s why I keep going back every season, isn’t it?”

Rowntree is now playing a crucial role both on and off the pitch for Workington, having taken up a player-coach position as part of Danny Grainger’s new-look management team in the summer.

After being relegated last term, there has been no sign of a hangover from Reds who, this term, have made a flying start to life in BetVictor Northern Premier League’s North-west Division.

They are top of the pile, ahead of tomorrow’s home clash against Tadcaster Albion after back-to-back blank weekends after their home league fixture against Runcorn Linnets was called off due to an issue at their Borough Park ground on October 19, while last Saturday’s FA Trophy tie at Brighouse Town was postponed, as well.

“It’s been a difficult transition, nobody likes getting relegated,” admits Rowntree who has made in excess of 400 appearances for Reds.

“It was a really tough season last season.

"We lost our manager [Dave Hewson], then we had a manager [Gavin Skelton] briefly, and it was all happening. It was a strange, strange season. It was the most difficult that I have had anyway.

“But for Danny to come in and bring in the players he has, they have all been positive and they’ve changed the mood all around the club, really.

"Danny has done really well.”

And former Blackburn Rovers man Rowntree, who also had a trial with Carlisle United, reveals Grainger has been keen to involve both assistant Steve Rudd and Rowntree himself in managerial decisions.

“With Ruddy and myself, Danny makes sure both of us are involved in decisions,” he says.

“We both have a say, but it’s Danny who makes the final decision at the end of the day.

"But he does ask our thoughts on everything to do with the game, really.

“He is good like that. It’s definitely an effort from the whole squad and, as Danny has said all along, we are all in it together.

"That’s the positiveness he brings to it, really.”

Despite being sent off early in Workington’s campaign in a 1-0 victory at Trafford in August, Rowntree - who has worked under Tommy Cassidy, Darren Edmondson, Derek Townsley, Skelton (twice), Hewson and Lee Andrews during his time at Reds - admits he has been given more game time by former Carlisle United skipper Grainger than he had originally expected.

He says: “I have been playing regularly.

"I’ve played since the start of the season, really, apart from a silly sending off. But I have been playing a lot, really.

“I have played more than I expected to be honest, because we had quite a few injuries and, with Josh Calvert leaving, I had to step in there. But it’s been great, really.

“I can’t see myself playing every week, but whenever I’m needed, I’m more than capable.

"But I have a slight niggle on my hamstring at the moment, so I will have to rest that up before I get back involved. I think that’s just down to old age!”

Following his appointment, Grainger brought former Carlisle youngsters Liam Brockbank, Ceiran Casson and Jay Kelly to Workington with him and, although Kelly has moved to the Midlands to train for an engineering role with Network Rail, Rowntree is pleased with the impact the youngsters have made, and Reds’ strength in depth in the squad in general.

“There is a really good squad there at the moment,” enthuses Rowntree who counts Cardiff City midfielder Will Vaulks and Carlisle captain Adam Collin among his former Workington team-mates.

“Obviously, you do need that because of the amount of games you play. It’s not easy when you are playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday for a good four or five weeks at the start of the season.

"Obviously, players have work in between the games, as well, so you can’t just keep churning out the same team.

"You need to have a squad and the young lads that have come in have more than stepped up.”