This week marks five years since the current board took over as owners of Barrow AFC.
To mark the incredible occasion, we thought we’d take a look back through the years at just how far the football club has come in that time.
The current board officially took control of the football club in the Autumn of 2018, following a rough season for the Bluebirds in the National League where we only survived relegation to the National League North by a single point.
The first game under the new regime couldn’t have gone much better after the Bluebirds secured an impressive 2-0 victory away to Aldershot Town thanks to goals from Tyler Smith and Jack Hindle.
Arguably the most memorable fixture of the season was a five-goal thriller at Holker Street against Salford City. Few Barrow fans will forget City’s first visit here in front of the BT Sport cameras and a crowd of 2,311. Ian Evatt’s side was building nicely, and we took a first-half lead when Jacob Blyth netted his first goal for the club from the penalty spot. The visitors had midfielder Gus Mafuta red-carded before half time and then on the hour, they equalised with a fine strike from Matt Green. With ten minutes remaining, we took the lead for a second time when Kemy Augustien smashed the ball home from outside the box. However, the Ammies bounced back again when Ibou Touray leveled things with seven minutes remaining. There was to be another twist in the tail when deep into injury time from a Josh Kay cross, Jacob Blyth arrived late at the far post to net the winner.
Overall, the 2018/19 season was certainly a successful one for Ian Evatt and Barrow who finished in 10th place in the National League, and only 10 points off the Play-Offs after they secured a 2-0 win over Gateshead on the final day of the season thanks to a brace from John Rooney. Interestingly current Bluebird Tom White was actually sent off for Gateshead in that match.
The events that took place the following season were something many Barrow fans in their wildest dreams wouldn’t have dreamt of.
Evatt’s side started the season on fire and by the eighth of October had risen to fourth place in the league, having most recently secured a 3-1 win over London side Boreham Wood, thanks to a goal from Dior Angus and a brace from Scott Quigley.
The tremendous form and beautiful football on display continued throughout the months to follow and Barrow rose to the top of the table on the 16th of November after a mesmerising performance away to Notts County which saw the Bluebirds run riot, scoring three goals at the Meadow Lane.
After that huge win in Nottingham, Evatt’s men continued their fine run of form into the new year and many Bluebirds will have fond memories of New Year’s Day in 2020, when Scott Quigley scored the only goal of the game against rivals AFC Fylde.
Barrow then followed up that victory with two consecutive 7-0 wins in the next ten days over Ebbsfleet United and FC United of Manchester.
By the 16th of March Barrow had played 37 games and recorded an impressive 70 points however, things soon turned sour when the National League was forced to suspend the league following an outbreak of COVID-19 across the Country.
Uncertainty loomed around Holker Street for months with no one quite knowing what would happen to the league.
But finally, after months of suspense on the 17th of June 2020 Barrow were crowned Champions of the National League and made their long-awaited return to the Football League, just 19 months after the new board had taken control of the football club.
Heading into the 2020/2021 season, the Bluebirds were delighted to be back in the Football League, however, there were two big losses heading into the season. The first was that fans were still not permitted to return to stadiums due to the ongoing pandemic meaning Barrow’s first EFL match in over 48 years would be played behind closed doors. And the second was that Manager Ian Evatt had been poached by fellow League Two side Bolton Wanderers.
Despite the pandemic off the pitch, the new owners were already making improvements to the stadium with a new room being installed over the Holker Street end.
Back onto the pitch, Blackburn Rovers legend David Dunn was announced as the Bluebirds’ new Manager on the 7th of July 2020.
On September the 12th the Bluebirds finally played their opening game of the season and drew to Stevenage 1-1 after Dior Angus and Inih Effiong both bagged goals from the spot.
After an eight-game winless streak to kick off the season the Bluebirds finally won their first match of the season when they defeated Mansfield Town 4-2 thanks to a brace from Josh Kay, and further goals from Patrick Brough and Bradley Barry. That victory was then followed up with another win after Connor Brown scored the only goal of the game to defeat Bradford City 1-0 at Holker Street.
That proved to be the final win Dunn would have as Barrow boss after he failed to win any of the next nine games resulting in him getting the sack on the 13th of December 2020.
For the next three games, Rob Kelly took over as Caretaker Manager and steered the side to two wins, as well as recording two clean sheets.
On the 23rd of December, Michael Jolly was named as the new Manager at Holker Street and his tenure started relatively well having picked up four points in his opening two games however, that’s as good as it got for Jolley who lost his job in late February.
In stepped Rob Kelly for the rest of the season and he did a tremendous job to keep Barrow in the Football League having won eight of our final 19 games that season.
Incredibly safety was actually secured with two games to go after Barrow went Forest Green knowing they had to get three points to secure safety that day. And Kelly’s side did just that after Scott Quigley and Bobby Thomas both bagged goals in the first half at the New Lawn Stadium.
On the 28th of May 2021, Mark Cooper was appointed as the Bluebirds’ new permanent Manager and his side got quite the draw in the second round of the EFL Cup, when we got drawn at home to Premier League side Aston Villa.
Sadly, any dreams of causing an upset were soon crushed when the former European Champions showed their class and ran out 6-0 winners. However, the Villains also showed their class off the pitch and kindly donated their share of the gate receipts back to Barrow.
The Cup proved to be Cooper’s biggest success with the Bluebirds after he guided them to the Third Round of the FA Cup. This came after we battered non-league side Banbury United 4-0 in the First Round, and then were drawn away to Ipswich Town in the Second Round.
The Barrow players did themselves and the town proud that day when they drew 0-0 at Portman Road meaning we’d secured a replay against the former Premier League Side. And the replay was simply magical as the Bluebirds ran out 2-0 winners including a wonder strike from current midfield maestro Robbie Gotts.
In the Third Round, the Bluebirds again did themselves proud having only been defeated by Barnsley in the final minute of extra time, with the home side running out 5-4 winners at Oakwell.
Back to the league front, things weren’t going so well for Cooper’s side, which meant on the 20th of March 2022 Cooper stepped down as Manager.
Experienced Manager Phil Brown was the man to step in and save us from relegation once again thanks to a string of fine results during the Easter period. The first of those three massive games was a 4-0 thrashing of Forest Green at Holker Street. A thrilling 2-2 draw against Salford City followed before we eventually secured our EFL status for another year thanks to a 1-0 win over Sutton United on the 23rd of April after John Rooney scored in the 68th minute before Paul Farman made a crucial penalty stop to preserve all three points.
And just as the eventful 2021/2022 season came to an end, a new era at the SO Legal Stadium dawned as current boss Pete Wild was announced as the new Barrow Manager.
And it was the perfect start to life in Cumbria for Wild’s men who secured two massive victories at the start of the season away to Stockport County and Bradford City, both games ended 3-2.
After a 3-1 win over Colchester United on November 1st 2022, Barrow rose to fourth in the table thanks to a hattrick of goals from Billy Waters.
After a rough couple of months, the Bluebirds rose again after re-igniting their fine start to the season with a 1-0 win at Valley Parade courtesy of a Josh Kay goal. Kay again was the hero the following week when he scored the only goal of the game to secure another 1-0 win over Stockport County.
After an extremely eventful season, the Bluebirds recorded their highest league finishes in decades having secured a ninth-place finish.
And another busy summer at the SO Legal Stadium followed with over 1000 seats being installed at Holker Street to make us fully compliant with League One and Two regulations.