The continuing adventures of Andy Hessenthaler
The midfielder was in his mid-20s when he gave up his business as a builder/plasterer and left behind non-league football to try to make it as a professional.
Hessenthaler took a wage cut when he left Redbridge Forest to sign for Watford but it was a gamble that paid rich dividends. The 43-year-old, who had cost the Hornets £65,000, went on to make more than 500 Football League appearances for Watford, Gillingham, Hull and Barnet.
More than 300 of these came with the Gills, with whom Hessenthaler experienced both the pain and ecstasy of the play-offs.
He was a member of the side that lost in THAT final to Manchester City in 1999 when their illustrious opponents scored two of the most dramatic late goals ever witnessed at Wembley.
Tenacious, steely and ultra-competitive, the midfielder was back at the Twin Towers 12 months later as Gillingham defeated Wigan to finally reach the second tier of English football.
By this stage of his career Hess, as he is known throughout the game, was 35 and had become a hero at the Priestfield Stadium - if not always with opposition supporters - but there was more to come.
Peter Taylor left Gillingham to take over as manager at Leicester after the play-off victory and the midfielder had four seasons as player-manager.
He eventually resigned in November 2004 with the Gills struggling at the bottom end of the Championship and went on to have brief spells as a player with Hull and Barnet.
Shortly after leaving the Bees, Hessenthaler surprised many with his next move when he was unveiled as the manager of Dover in 2007.
Dover were in the Isthmian League First Division South, six tiers below the Championship. So why did Hessenthaler take a job so far down the footballing pyramid?
"A few eyebrows were raised after I dropped down so many divisions but I didn't really look at the level, more the people at the club and how ambitious they are," said Hessenthaler.
And the key personnel at Dover are nothing if not ambitious. Long-term financial problems almost resulted in the club, who were in the Conference as recently as 2002, going out of business in January 2005 but former director Jim Parmenter returned to the club at the head of a consortium.
Money has been invested, a new clubhouse has been built and Hessenthaler has been able to bring players with considerable League experience such as Guiliano Grazioli and Alan Pouton to the club.
Hessenthaler's first season in charge culminated in the first promotion of his managerial career, and the club's average attendance of 943 was way in excess of any other side in the division.
The promotion form has continued this season and the club are currently eight points clear at the top of the Isthmian Premier Division having played two fixtures less than their nearest rivals Carshalton, while the crowd at the Crabble is now averaging more than 1,000.
"If you look at the gates we have people will probably say we are the Manchester United of the division," admitted Hessenthaler. "There are lots of rumours about budgets and the players we have got but that does not matter, you still have to go out there and perform."
A recent FA Cup tie against AFC Wimbledon saw 3,500 pass through the turnstiles and Hessenthaler, the only full-time member of the club's staff, is confident the club has the potential to go a long way.
"There is no reason why we couldn't push Dover all the way to the Football League," he told me.
There are, however, limits to what he can do with a squad that is part-time. Training takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. He would like to be able to do more video work with them but does not have the time. "It is very difficult at times to give them enough information," he said.
There is less banter with a part-time squad, with the day-to-day banter that Hess enjoyed in the full-time game now restricted to the twice-weekly training sessions and matchday.
But working with less-polished players has helped the Dover boss to develop his managerial skills.
So what is the key to being a successful manager?
"For me 85% of management is how you handle your players. If you get them playing for you and ensure they respect you then you have a very good chance of being successful."
Some players need an arm putting around them, others a kick up the backside. Hessenthaler belonged to the latter category.
"I remember a game I played for Watford," Hess explained. "I did not have a good first half and got a rollicking from Steve Perryman at the break. In the second half I performed and it was because he knew how to work me.
"Once you know your squad you have more or less cracked it."
Most of what Hessenthaler has learnt has come from Peter Taylor, his mentor in the game and a former Dover manager. He played for the current Wycombe boss at Dartford, Gillingham and Hull, while Taylor was assistant boss at Vicarage Road when Hessenthaler was signed by Watford.
The two men are still close and Taylor is often used as a sounding board. Hessenthaler also talks in glowing terms about Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce when discussing managers who know how to get the best out of their players.
He believes that being honest with his players is absolutely fundamental and says he would never tell a player something that is not true.
Everything that he has learned will make him a better manager and help him fulfil his managerial ambitions. Hessenthaler has made no secret of his desire to return to full-time management and been linked with several vacancies over the last few months.
But for the moment he is more than happy to keep climbing up the non-league pyramid with Dover, while the plastering business has been sidelined for good.
"It is nice to be linked with other jobs, but this is a club on the way up and I want to get them to where they belong," said Hess.