To call Chris Geddes a busy man would be to do him a considerable disservice.

"Last year, I did 108 games over both teams, plus friendlies," he reveals, like it's nothing. "This year, it’ll be mid 90s again."

This is the schedule for being manager at the University of Stirling, or, as he puts it, "secretary, treasurer, manager, coach, whatever". But why, I hear you ask, is this man subjecting himself to a volume of football that computes as one game every 3.3 days for an entire year?

"Most managers take one team," he points out. "I take two."

When he's not nurturing the University's U20s, Geddes runs the men's first team. And, at the halfway point of the season, he's essentially run them to the top of the Lowland League. That might not sound like much with 18 games still to play, but to be in this position at all is quite something.

For one, the university does not pay players, something which, if you've been paying attention to the fifth tier or even below, is no small disadvantage these days. They do offer scholarships to former academy or senior professionals, and what Geddes believes is the best facilities available at that level in Stirling's renowned sports campus, but none of his squad are picking up a weekly wage for their efforts.

Second, is the scale of those efforts.

"I think I worked it out that only Liverpool played in more competitions," Geddes says, referencing the Reds' arduous 2019/20 campaign in which they entered seven tournaments.

He's wrong, though, it's actually the other way around.

Stirling Uni competed on eight fronts last season and it's the same story this year. As well as their Lowland League campaign, they also play in the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) Premier Division North, which regularly involves eight hour round trips south of the border in midweek.

The Herald: Geddes' side compete on multiple fronts eachGeddes' side compete on multiple fronts each (Image: University of Stirling)

Then there's the Lowland League Cup, the South Challenge Cup, the Queen's Park Shield, the East of Scotland qualifying cup, the BUCS British Championships and, this weekend against Albion Rovers for a place in the fourth round, the Scottish Cup.

"Eight competitions every year for us," Geddes says, again like it's nothing. "If you get knocked out, that’s fine, but if you keep winning cup games it just adds up. We played 19 or 20 cup games last year which adds nearly two thirds of a season."

It's a schedule that would've driven Jurgen Klopp dangerously close to spontaneous combustion. Geddes, however, sees it differently. "It’s good because it’s games," he explains. “You can train all you want but games are where our players learn so that when they leave us, they aren’t making the mistakes.

“We’re trying to polish and refine the player so the teams they go to don’t have to deal with the problems we’ve got. We’re not going to sign a 30-year-old, refined player who doesn’t make mistakes."

By leave he means graduation, just another hurdle to navigate at the end of every season.

“It is difficult because we change every year," Geddes admits. "We graduate – we have seven or eight graduating at the end of this year. So we then have to look within the club, if there’s none within the club we have to see who’s going to come to university as well."

It's perhaps why he also manages the U20s, to personally oversee that progression into the first team. Last summer, he promoted five from the U20s and one from the uni's second team, who play in the East of Scotland League, and four of them are now regulars in his senior side.

Visit any elite club academy and you'll find continuity in playing philosophy at the heart of the operation, all with a view to priming youngsters for the final step. By personally overseeing the U20s, Geddes can make the transition as smooth as possible.

"We've got a really good 20s side and with me coaching them it helps because I can get them ready for the first team," he says. "They’re ready to step in and we’ve had to use some of them this year already. Six, seven weeks ago we had Berwick on a Tuesday night and a uni game on the Wednesday so we’ve had to use the 20s this year and it’s been really beneficial for us.”

By now, you begin to grasp why leading Lowland League promotion race in late November is so impressive. Stirling Uni have won 11 of their 18 fixtures, second only to Rangers B, who as a guest club, cannot go up. But you won't find Geddes, or his players, getting giddy at the thought of a historic foray into League Two.

'One game at a time' is the oldest cliche in football but this is a team who literally cannot ponder anything more than a few days ahead.

“To me, personally, it doesn’t mean much at the moment," Geddes insists. "I know where we are, in terms of if we could go up, it’s going to be very difficult. Some of the teams are just very strong. People will say we’re very strong but we might not have as a big a squad.

“We’ve got other things to work on as well as Saturday commitments. The other teams in the Lowland League can all focus on the Lowland League. It's eight competitions but we focus on two fronts – university competition and the Saturday stuff, we do it equally."

But he must be proud of where they are for now, surely?

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great" he says. "It’s just a start, though, it’s not as if anything’s won. You don’t win leagues at halfway, or you don’t stay high at halfway.

“We’ll be happy with a top half finish, still. Hopefully, in the second half of the season we can pick up more points. Our boys don’t get carried away – talking about winning leagues, promotions, you’ll never hear any of my boys say that."

Their position is just another talking point in a league everyone seems to have an opinion on. The inclusion of Celtic, Rangers and now Hearts B teams has been a particularly fraught point of contention, especially for clubs further down the pyramid with upward ambitions.

Currently, there exists only one promotion and relegation place, with the winners from the West, East and South of Scotland Leagues competing for it in a round robin.

For many, it's not enough and has led to accusations of a closed shop.

“Listen, it gets a bad rep from all the people who want to be in it" Geddes says. "That’s the ironic thing. The people who want to be in it are the ones giving it a bad name. From a football standpoint, I totally understand the frustrations teams have.

“Let’s be honest, nobody is doubting that – promotion, relegation and stuff. But the blame is always laid at the Lowland League when the Lowland League look at the SPFL.

“Everyone says we’re the ones holding up the pyramid – it’s the SPFL holding up the pyramid, if you think about it. League Two is the bottleneck, because there’s loads and loads of teams who want to get into League Two and League One.

"If you look through the West, East, Highland and Lowland Leagues, there’s so many progressive clubs that have aspirations to become senior like Bonnyrigg and Cove Rangers. The Lowland does get a bad name but in a few years I’m sure it’ll be even more competitive."

Next up, however, is that aforementioned chance to mix it with the big boys in the Scottish Cup fourth round.

“It’ll be a good marker to see where we are," Geddes says. "I’m sure it’s the same with everyone you’ve interviewed about big team v small team – there’s more pressure on them. If they lose to Stirling Uni, it’s them that get in trouble; if we lose to Albion Rovers, nobody bats an eyelid."

And at that, Geddes signs off with a thought that must take up permanent residence in the mind of a manager who clocks up over 100 games a season.

"Hopefully, everyone's fit."