Mark Cooper says the Barrow AFC hierarchy are determined to keep their best players in the building.

The Bluebirds recently knocked back a bid for one of their key men.

Manager Cooper has not commented on the identity of the player, amid rumours linking Bradford City with interest in Ollie Banks.

But the AFC boss, whose side pulled off an excellent 2-0 win at Colchester on Saturday, says the focus must be on keeping the squad intact this month.

“I think the owners and chairman are pretty adamant that January is an important time for us and we need to keep our best players to make sure we finish strongly and set ourselves up for a really good season next season,” Cooper said.

“We have some good younger players – Patrick Brough is an outstanding player, Matty Platt, James Jones, Remeao Hutton…Ollie Banks is not young but has gone great and scored ten goals.

“We have some players that of course will be of interest to people.”

Cooper said last week that a bid received for a Bluebirds player had not met the club’s valuation.

There are two weeks left in the transfer window with Barrow having made three additions to date.

Two of those, frontmen Will Harris and Jacob Wakeling, were handed debuts in the 2-0 victory in Essex.

Cooper told BBC Cumbria: “It was a difficult afternoon for them to come into.

“We weren’t brilliant as a team but if you’re going to bring them in you might as well throw them in, get them ready and match fit.

“In parts they looked fine and will get better.”

Josh Kay came off the bench to seal Barrow’s victory with his second goal on successive weekends.

Cooper spoke about how the 25-year-old can have an impact on the second half of 19th-placed Barrow’s remainder of 2021/22.

He said: “I speak to Josh a lot.

“I think we are better when we play a back three, it suits our players, but the system doesn’t really suit Josh’s preferred position which is wide left.

“He’s not keen on the wing-back role [but] does really well when the game is stretched and he comes on and causes havoc.

“I think for him to play, it’s as a striker in that system, and he’s got a massive part to play for us this year.”

Cooper also described Luke James’ performance as “outstanding” and said Barrow would continue playing on the front foot.

“The intent from us is to try and attack,” he said. “That’s not to say we haven’t had that intent, but in my opinion we haven’t had much luck in front of goal, or missed too many chances.”