Barrow AFC manager Ian Evatt is thankful that he has a much more solid base to build on this summer after an encouraging first season in charge that saw his side finish mid-table in the National League.

It certainly wasn’t an easy job that awaited Evatt when he was first appointed by former owners the Casson family in June last year, as he inherited a ‘squad’ of six players and entered a club short on morale.

In what was his first job as a manager, the former Blackpool and Chesterfield centre-back had to work on a reduced budget and build a team almost from scratch in an effort to avoid the previous season’s struggles against relegation.

There were a few teething troubles in the first few months of the campaign, but a change of ownership at the club in the autumn preceded an upturn in fortunes on and off the pitch that have left everyone feeling optimistic about the future.

Evatt said: “I inherited six players – three of them had just signed and had played at a lot lower level than the National League.

“From both parties, really, it was a huge risk. For me to make the decision to retire and go into management and then take the job at Barrow, knowing what I know now, was a huge risk.

“Vice versa, they took a risk on me in terms of me not being experienced as a manager – it was my first season at it – but also I think both sides have been delighted with what they’ve seen.

“I wouldn’t change much of it at all. The early season was tough, with the restraints from the old owners etc, but that’s part of football and there are loads of clubs with financial difficulty and loads of clubs with struggles.

“Then we had the ‘knights’ come up, they appear on their horses, the new owners and the new board of directors have made it a seamless transition.

“They’ve backed me, they’ve supported me where they can and they believe in me, so it’s been a good season, in terms of how far we’ve come and as a football club, I feel we’re in a much better position place than we were last summer.”

One of the big changes under Evatt has been the style of play the Bluebirds have employed during the campaign, preferring to keep the ball on the floor and wear teams down, rather than go direct.

Put into practice at its best, it’s allowed AFC to play some of the best teams in the division off the park, but a lack of a prolific goalscorer after Tyler Smith’s recall by Sheffield United in December meant their efforts weren’t always rewarded.

Evatt said: “When I first got the job and me and Peter [Atherton] took our first session, the lads probably couldn’t string two or three passes together, which was alarming at the time.

“We had a bit of joke, saying ‘what have we took on here, can they do what we want them to do?’

“But we stuck with it and then through pre-season we saw improvement and then I think we did surprise a few teams early on. We’re expansive, we’re attacking and we play good football.

“Obviously, we had a bit of a wobble but then we changed it a little bit, brought in some more solidity and now we’ve gone back to the 4-3-3 when we can.

“I must say, all in all, it has been good, although I’m slightly disappointed because I think we were good enough to make it into the play-offs.”