'Barrowcelona' A Thing Of Beauty For Bolton-Bound Evatt

They were a distant dot in the tipsters' eye-line at the start of the season, but not even a global pandemic could put a flicker of doubt into Ian Evatt’s mind that his team were about to bash the bookies.

You usually recognise you are in the company of a natural born winner within a minute, so an afternoon with Barrow’s title winning boss does little to dispel the theories that he is a man who is only just getting started.

Confidence, we’re told, is key. He may have played down the promotion talk every time he was asked, but it appears he was only pulling the wool over our eyes.

Evatt revealed he knew all along his team were not only going to end the club’s 48-year exile from the Football League, but they were going to do it with winners’ medals around their necks.

The irony of course is that the last club to be voted out back in 1972 were eventually voted back in. But it goes much deeper than all that.

Of course, the manager is going up but he isn’t going up with the Bluebirds.

Evatt will be managing against Barrow in League Two after accepting the task of resurrecting Bolton Wanderers.

Sitting down for a Zoom chat after taking the job at a club in the Premier League just eight years ago, he explained all about his exit - and how he just knew that, even a year ago, his team were going to do something very special.

But he had one big regret - that it didn’t happen sooner!

He told us: “I actually wanted to win it in one season! I’m that type of person, I just can’t deal with mediocrity.

“It ate me up that we only finished tenth in my first season. Everyone was delighted and amazed with it as we were favourites for relegation, but I wasn’t.

“So I needed to quickly find out what it would take to get us to the next level.

“I saw the signs that we improved. The lads will back me here, I believed from day one we would win the league last season. Even with everything that went on.”

You can’t please all the people all the time, and Evatt knows he would have left some fans at Holker Street blue after accepting the Bolton job.

But there is little doubt he leaves a legacy - and he also hopes the exciting brand of football he helped implement continues under David Dunn when the new season eventually begins.

“There is never a right time to leave, but I thought it was the closest I could get,” he outlined.

“Number one, I have been given a wonderful opportunity to manage a huge football club - and that doesn’t come around very often.

“Number two, I had achieved what I promised I would and what I said I would. I told the fans I would turn down every other opportunity until I got the club promoted, and I did that.

“Now they are in the Football League after 48 years they have a fantastic platform to improve and finance coming in. Not just from the league, they have money coming from our departure to Bolton, and they can improve the stadium and leave a foundation moving forward.

“We changed the way people view Barrow, the brand and style has been recognised.

“Young kids in Barrow and wearing Barrow shirts again - and there is young talent there who will stay because of the way they play. They may have left in years gone by.

“I would love to feel there is a legacy that has been left, and the club can really establish itself in the EFL.

“No break up is ever nice in any form of life but when the emotion gets taken out of it everyone will notice what we’ve achieved. I’ve seen smiles on faces again, and although I have left I hope they remember what we’ve achieved together.”

He has another regret as well, but this one is out of the 38-year-old’s hands.

“It’s sad that we haven’t had a chance to all properly celebrate it together, the players and the fans,” he added.

“With the way it ended and with myself moving clubs, we didn’t really get the opportunity to do it as we wanted to.

“I quickly got on the phone to the players after a Director called me to say the vote had been passed. I wanted to call all the players, I really wanted them to know before the media reported it. I felt that was something I had to do.

“It’s bitter sweet, and I hope they will look back fondly and consider it an amazing journey we all went on during my two years in charge.

“You lead by example. I have my non negotiables - you set the standard yourself and everyone falls into line. That is one thing you can’t compromise, and one thing I am proud of.”

When one fan decided to call his team Barrowcelona, it really stuck.

“I am proud of the fact we managed to change the culture of the whole club - now I am on the same process at Bolton,” he adds.

“The Barrowcelona thing is great - it’s what I wanted to implement, and we adopted the name. Nobody in Non-League has ever had that type of tag.

“When I took the job I came to an agreement with myself, how I believed the game should be played is how we will play.

"I was told you can’t win the National League playing like that, but it just made me more determined and to showcase it even more.

“We have kind of changed the blueprint. If you stick to those firm beliefs you can achieve what you want to. With the standard of the league improving every year, you can start playing the type of football everyone wants to see.”

He can’t go without saying some thank-yous.

“I didn’t play in the National League, I didn’t know a huge amount about it,” he said. “I didn’t want to take an easy academy job with no risk but I wanted to manage a club from top to bottom.

“It’s a huge thank you as well to the National League, as well as to Barrow, its players and fans.

“It gave me an opportunity to showcase what I wanted to do. There are some fantastic people in the league - and there are some excellent managers in the division too who will go far in the game.

“You learn so much, it’s the best place to learn. It has salt of the earth fans, no prawn sandwiches. They follow their club and they are the ones who keep football going.”

Ian Evatt’s quick-fire Q&A…

Your favourite game of last season?
It’s a good question because there were a few. The one that stands out was the 3-0 win at Notts County. It told everyone we mean business.

Your goal of the season?
I’m a team-goal man rather than one for your spectacular strikes. Dior Angus scored it, but it was a great 20-pass move going from one side of the pitch to the other.

Pick one word to describe your team other than ‘champions’?

Favourite moment of the season?
Against Torquay United at home. The wind was 100 miles per hour. We went 1-0 down, got back in it and then Scott Quigley scored a great lob - we all celebrated together and started to believe.

Which is the stand out achievement of your career?
I’ve been fortunate, I have scored and been promoted in every league. I need to start sharing these promotions out! I can’t pick one, they are all special.

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