A Brief History of Barrow AFCA Brief Club History by Phil Yelland
Founded in September 1901, the club began playing competitive football in the Lancashire Combination League at its first home ground, 'The Strawberry'.
Chapter 1: In The Beginning
Founded in September 1901, the club began playing competitive football in the Lancashire League at its first home ground 'The Strawberry'. They then moved to a new ground at Ainslie Street in the town. A further move to Little Park, Roose saw the club enjoy their first success, winning promotion to Division One of the Lancashire Combination in 1908. The following year saw the club move to its current home, Holker Street , and the first game saw a 5-2 success over Eccles Borough. There was no major success before the outbreak of the First World War apart from an F.A. Cup run which ended at the hands of then Football League Division Two outfit, Bradford Park Avenue.
Chapter 2: Into the League.
The club won Division A of the Lancashire Combination for the 1920-21 season and was duly elected to the Third Division North of the Football League. Their League career began with six straight defeats which were representative of many of the struggles to come. Over the seasons up to the Second World War, the club's best finish in the Division Three North was eighth in the 1933-34 season. On the final day of that season, the club recorded its highest ever League victory with Jimmy Shankley scoring five of the goals in a 12-1 win. That season also saw the club score over 100 League goals with 78 of those coming in just 21 home games.
Chapter 3: Post War Struggles and Cup Ties
Little changed immediately after the Second World War although in January 1954 when an F.A. Cup 3rd Round tie with Swansea Town attracted a record crowd of 16,874 to Holker Street. The Town side included a number of Welsh internationals; the game finished 2-2. When the League was reorganised in 1958, the club found itself placed in Division Four. In January 1959, the eyes of the football world turned to Holker Street as the club entertained the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers in an F.A. Cup 3rd Round tie. On a frozen pitch, a crowd of 16,340 saw the team put up a tremendous performance; the 4-2 winning margin flattered Wolves.
Chapter 4: To Division Three And Back To Non League
The club continued to struggle in Division Four. In 1963, the club erected floodlights and the official opening saw Scottish First Division outfit Dunfermline Athletic visit. Fortunes slowly improved and in 1967, with Don McEvoy in charge and a side including such well known names as goalkeeper Fred Else, defender Brian Arrowsmith who holds the club record for Football League appearances and striker Jim Mulholland finished third in the Division to win promotion to Division Three. McEvoy was immediately replaced as manager by Colin Appleton who led the team to eighth place in Division Three the following season. Ill health saw him step down in January 1969 and the club slid back to the bottom of Division Four in just over two years. At the end of the 1971-72 season, the club finished third bottom of Division Four and required to make its eleventh re-election application.
In June 1972, they were faced in the ballot by Southern League Hereford United who had come to the nation's attention after a spectacular F.A. Cup success over First Division Newcastle United. The first ballot saw the votes tied at 26 each.
The second ballot saw United collect 29 votes to Barrow's 20 and, after 51 years we had lost our much prized Football League status.
Chapter 5: Fighting For Survival.
The club joined the Northern Premier League in August 1972 and found life at the lower level a struggle with resources scarce and a distinct lack of success. In 1976, the club reached the F.A.Cup 1st Round Proper for the first time since losing League status but, the side led by former Scotland international and Liverpool star Ron Yeats lost 2-0 at home to fellow NPL outfit Goole Town. The crowd of 3,255 showed that the town still wanted football success.
Chapter 6: Making Progress.
In 1979, despite a lack of playing success, the club joined the APL (now the Nationwide Conference) and the opening home game saw a crowd of 2,027 as the team defeated Yeovil Town 2-0. In April 1981, the club won its first Trophy since losing League status as manager Mickey Taylor led the side to a 2-1 ATS Trophy success over Chorley at Wigan. However, two years later, the club was relegated back to the NPL.
Former Sunderland star Vic Halom was appointed as player/manger in the summer of 1983 and he took the club to the NPL title at the first attempt. However, his talents were noted in the Football League and one year after his arrival, he departed, along with top scorer Barry Diamond to join Rochdale. Over the next two seasons, the club had a succession of managers, including Brian Kidd before being relegated again.
Chapter 7: The Wilkie Years.
Just before relegation was confirmed, in March 1986, Ray Wilkie was appointed as manager and the next five and a half years saw the club enjoy unparalleled success. The 1987-88 season saw the club reach the F.A. Trophy semi-finals where the club lost to Enfield. However, the following two seasons saw the NPL title captured and with it promotion to the Conference. Then, in May 1990, the club captured the F.A. Trophy with a 3-0 win over Leek Town at Wembley thanks to two goals from Kenny Gordon and one from club appearance and goalscoring record holder Colin Cowperthwaite. Two other members of that side enjoyed further recognition with Glenn Skivington going on to win five England semi-professional caps whilst midfielder Kenny Lowe was to earn a transfer to Barnet for a club record fee.
The club failed to build on that success and the club lost the services of Ray Wilkie as manager in November 1991 when he was taken when he was taken seriously ill and, six months later the club was relegated.
The club failed to build on that success and the club lost the services of Ray Wilkie as manager in November 1991 when he was taken when he was taken seriously ill and, six months later the club was relegated.
Chapter 8: Recovering Ground.
The club failed to make an immediate impact in the NPL. In the spring of 1995, Liverpool based businessman Stephen Vaughan joined the Board and took over as chairman. The 1997-98 season saw a side, managed by Liverpool based Owen Brown win the NPL title and reach the F.A. Trophy Quarter Finals.
Chapter 9: Fighting Back
Within months of joining the Conference, Mr Vaughan had departed, Brown was sacked and a liquidator was appointed because of the club's debts. Despite finishing out of the relegation zone at the end of the 1998-99 season, the club's circumstances saw it 'relegated' and accepted back into the membership of NPL (now the UniBond League).
Former favourite Kenny Lowe took over as player/manager in August 1999. In his four seasons in charge, he led the club to the F.A. Cup First Round Proper on three separate occasions as well as securing the UniBond Chairman's Cup in the 2000-01 season and the President's Cup twelve months later. He also steered the club to the Final of the Marsden Trophy in the 2002-03 season. Progress in the League was steady resulting in the club finishing runners up to Accrington Stanley at the end of the 2002-03 season. At the end of the 2003-04 season Kenny Lowe stood down as manager and his assistant Lee Turnbull took charge and took the club to third place in the UniBond Premier Division as well as winning the President's Cup for the second time in three seasons.
Chapter 10: Into Blue Square North and Back To The Top.
The club joined what is now Blue Square North when it was formed in 2004-05 but apart from two F.A. Cup First Round appearances against Bristol Rovers and AFC Bournemouth, there was no tangible success until the end of last season when the club won its way back to Blue square premier after an absence of ten years by defeating Stalybridge Celtic 1-0 in the Play Off Final at Burton Albion. It was a remarkable success following the appointment of Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss initially as joint managers on a caretaker basis in November 2007. They took charge permanently in December and masterminded a 20 match unbeaten run that ended in promotion.
Last season, the club maintained its place in Blue Square Premier and enjoyed a run to the Third Rounds proper of the F.A. Cup. The trip to Middlesbrough of the Premiership saw 7,000 fans make the trip to Tees-side for a wonderful day out where the team emerged with considerable credit at the end of a 2-1 defeat.
Chapter 11: The Best Season Ever
The 2009-10 season saw the club scale new heights. The team consolidated its place in Blue square premier but in cup competitions, the club again made its mark.
For the first time since leaving the Football League in 1972, the club reached the F.A. Cup 3rd Round for the second successive season. This time they were rewarded with a trip to Premiership side Sunderland where again the team put up a creditable performance in losing 3-0. However, 20 years on form winning the F.A. Trophy Final, the club again reached Wembley after wins over Kettering Town, Maidenhead United, Gateshead, York City and Salisbury City. Their opponents in the Final were Blue Square Premier champions Stevenage Borough and Barrow turned the tables winning 2-1 after extra time with goals from Lee McEvilly and Jason Walker. It was a remarkable end to another roller coaster campaign.