IN the end, the decision over whether to stay on as head coach of Barrow Raiders was not too difficult for Paul Crarey to make.

The outpouring of messages from players and supporters alike asking him to stay on for a fifth year in charge left Crarey in no doubt about how those inside and outside the club felt.

Raiders chairman Steve Neale was particularly keen for his former Barrow team-mate to remain as head coach too - so much so that he offered him a two-year contract.

So after some deliberation and discussions his family, Crarey returned from holiday to sign that deal and admitted the messages of support, particularly those from the fans, were overwhelming.

“I had a lot of the players texting me and wanting me to stay after the end of the season, but it was just a case of getting away and having a break because it’s pretty intense when you’re working and coaching,” said Crarey.

“Steve kept in touch while I was away and when I came back, he wanted a meeting and said ‘you’ve got me in, so what do you want to do?’ I said ‘I want to stay and push on now’.

“The fans don’t seem to be fed up with us and they’ve been great. Last season, they were outstanding and I’ve had a lot of support and some fantastic messages while I’ve been away.

“They sent messages wanting me to stay and saying how we’re pushing the club on and taking it in the right direction.”

Another decisive factor for Crarey was that his coaching staff of assistant Steve Rea, team manager Dave Kendall and conditioner Paul Taylor were all happy to stay on too.

Rea and Kendall both have long-standing associations with Barrow from their playing days too, and Crarey was eager for them to stay by his side.

“That was important for me,” said Crarey. “I said to Steve (Neale) he needed to speak to the others first and we’re one big team, and I’m just the front-man for that.

“He spoke to Steve Rea and he wanted to stay, and Dave and all of them, so they were just waiting for me to come back.

“It’s fantastic to be a local lad with a local coaching group, and four years down the track signing a two-year contract is phenomenal, really.

“To even contemplate doing six years at your hometown club is unbelievable for me as a lifelong Barrow fan.”

Crarey is still taken aback by how far the Raiders have come since he returned for what was originally meant to be a one-year spell in charge.

But four years down the line, the team has gone from being rebuilt to lifting the League One Cup and being promoted to, and surviving in, the Betfred Championship.

“I’ve always said, I’ll go when we’re not going forward anymore,” said Crarey. “But we’re still pushing forward and it’s shown with the signings we have made.”