BARROW’S young wing-back and, for many, AFC’s most improved player this season is relishing the prospect of facing his old gaffer.

Josh Kay signed after Ian Evatt took charge in 2018, having previously played with the ex-Bluebirds manager at Chesterfield.

Evatt left AFC earlier this summer to take up the top job at Bolton Wanderers, after leading Barrow to EFL promotion for the first time in four decades.

Kay has spoken of his excitement at being reacquainted with new AFC manager David Dunn. However, he also has warm words of admiration for the recently-departed Evatt.

Ahead of the 2020/1 campaign, during which he will face his old boss and teammate, Kay said: “It’ll be an interesting one to play in, especially when they [Evatt’s Bolton side] come to Barrow.

“I’m pretty sure that he’ll get a bit of stick, but that’s just football and I’m sure deep down most of the fans respect what he did.

“Obviously, we’ve got to move on now - the new gaffer has come in and we’re just waiting to get going, waiting to find out when we’re back in for pre-season and getting ready to hit the ground running.”

Kay put Evatt’s success during his short tenure as Bluebirds boss down to shrewd recruitment choices and an atmosphere of excitement that the former Blackpool player helped generate around Holker Street.

It was this buoyant mood and a new brand of free-flowing, attacking football that led the previously-unfashionable club to be dubbed ‘Barrowcelona’.

“I’m not going to lie, I never thought when I came here that I was going to make it back into the League with Barrow,” Kay said.

“I thought it was going to be off my own back, through playing well etc, but the gaffer [Ian Evatt] did really well in recruiting the right players and bringing in the new style of play to the team.

“It just created a great buzz around the place and we managed to achieve what we did.”

Despite the boost promotion glory has brought the club and the town more widely, the unusual circumstances of AFC’s success - coming months after lockdown brought all sporting fixtures across the board to a halt - have brought their own challenges.

Doubts and uncertainty still surround the season ahead for AFC, as Kay, like the rest of his teammates, prepare for the challenge[s] ahead having not played a competitive match since March.

“We just want to get going again. We’ve been promoted and it’s sunk in really well to the point where it’s almost gone, so hopefully we can get back in ASAP. It was my first promotion and it doesn’t really feel like it.”