Pre-season officially begins on Saturday as Barrow AFC prepare for the visit of Blackburn Rovers.

For the players, now is the time to get some key fitness miles on the clock and to work on the shape of the team.

Ian Evatt seems an exacting task master in terms of expectations, with his off the field team overseeing fitness, diet, recovery time and all sorts of stats the modern footballer can access and analyse to improve performance. Such professionalism paid off last year.

Trialists have no such structure, flitting from club to club through July trying to land a deal. There have been times over the last decade or two when we began pre-season with only a few signed on, whereupon these footballing hopefuls assume a mysterious identity, where a decent tackle or shot sees confused spectators mugging the one person with a team sheet to ask ‘who’s the big lad, number 26?’

It is an iron-clad law of such moments in pre-season that the keeper of the sheet delivers an answer with real gravitas, which then turns out to be complete nonsense a few hours later. ‘That will be Tommy McGoldrick, ex-Sutton United I believe,’ is a completely different person who is never seen again.

Then there are the rumours which invariably surround ex-League players. This year is no exception.

Sage old heads stop you as you amble round the ground with tales such as, ‘I’ve heard that Tom Pope/Wayne Curtis /Charlie Adam/Glen Murray is ON HIS WAY’.

Such nonsense can keep fans entertained through the dog days of July. A personal favourite of mine was the ‘Matt Jansen starts for Barrow’ rumour started by some rather inebriated souls at Windscale United, secure in the pre-Twitter knowledge that, for at least a few hours, others back in Barrow would wonder if the left-footed maestro was about to grace our club.

For the fans, pre-season away games offer the important opportunity to obsess over all things Barrow again and indeed drink their bodyweight in ale on the way to Giant Axe in Lancaster, or no doubt enjoy the train ride up the coast to visit our old foes at Workington.

This year has also seen so much effort in redevelopment at the ground that fans are as likely to discuss the imminent signing of the retractable tunnel as the new left-back.

If you come down to Holker Street, you might be there to hail the arrival of either.

*The Bluebirds Trust Five-a-side Tournament last Sunday at Pulse Soccer really showed the best of Barrow and Barrow AFC.

To begin with, I must thank General Burgoyne, The Ambrose Hotel and Brown Barron Solicitors for sponsoring the competition.

That our manager and some of his backroom staff were prepared to get up at 6am to drive up here to play says a great deal about the unity of our club as we raised money for changing room refurbishment, which will benefit the whole Barrow AFC community.

It’s probably the only tournament this year in Barrow which saw two players who’d been at the top level in England and a Champions League player line up in groups with local players of various shapes, sizes and abilities, more used to turning out for a Sunday night five-a-side.

Congratulations to Top Shine, who rounded off an excellent performance all round by winning the Ambrose Cup and to Stanton, who battled through to win the Brown Barron Trophy.

Most of all, we must thank Ronan McCarthy, his admin staff and Pulse itself for raising over £500.

Events like these raise money, but more importantly raise awareness, through the Trust, to support causes that benefit Barrow AFC and our town as a whole.

*The relentless pace of the summer continues, though light is now looming into view at the end of the tunnel.

For the last ten days, my life has consisted of working the day job and then going straight to the ground either for meetings, hoovering, installing new ceiling tiles or demolishing a partition wall in the new Trust shop.

The amount of work we still have to do will mean that this week is more of the same. Midnight finishes have not been uncommon.

More volunteers are always welcome. For the technically minded, the Trust shop is the place to be. For others like myself who take no view of trades, splashing paint onto the walls is another welcome contribution. Feel free to come to the ground and make yourselves available.

Those who have done so have certainly been entertained. Whether it’s Steve Herbert dipping a brush tainted with grey paint into a tin full of white, leading to much discarded paint, Steve Herbert using masonry paint on the metal surfaces of the shop, or just Steve Herbert wearing his new hat, there’s always entertainment to be found. And we usually have Steve to thank for it.