Manager David Dunn says he hopes Barrow AFC can make proud the long-serving fans who have waited nearly half a century to see them back in the Football League.

The Bluebirds’ long wait to return to EFL action will finally be over today as they host Stevenage at the Progression Solicitors’ Stadium.

It marks an emotional return for league football to Holker Street after AFC were controversially voted out in 1972.

Dunn says he wishes the veteran supporters who backed Barrow at that time could be in the ground today to watch their historic return.

That is not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions – but the boss said his team will be determined to give all Bluebirds followers a day and a season to remember.

“After 48 years without being in the league, the last thing the fans wanted was not to be able to go down on that first game back,” Dunn said.

“I feel really sorry that they can’t, especially the older supporters who have seen both periods.

“It would have been really fitting for them to be on the ground and see the progression we’ve made over the last near-50 years.

“I know there were a couple of supporters who were really instrumental in trying their best to keep us in the league back then, and I understand they are not so well at the moment.

“Hopefully we can do them proud as well.”

Dunn faces a number of selection decisions today with Barrow having performed well in two cup games so far with significantly different sides.

He made eight changes for the EFL Trophy game at Blackpool after last weekend’s Carabao Cup tie at Derby, and saw his side record two dogged 0-0 draws.

He must now decide whether to recall players such as Dior Angus and Mike Jones, with Lewis Hardcastle also among those expected to come back in.

Dunn says Barrow must generate a fresh sense of momentum this season despite last season’s memorable promotion.

He said the way their rise to the Football League was confirmed during the Covid-19 lockdown made for an unusual and more subdued celebration.

The significant changes to the squad also means it is a fresh start for the Holker Street outfit.

He said: “It’s a unique position we find ourselves in this year.

“Generally, you only have six weeks off and then you’re straight back into it and ready to go again. That momentum can then carry over.

“This year I was left with the 10 players that I had, so there’s been a big rebuild, really.

“As much as the club had the momentum, it kind of does fizzle out. Even getting the trophy on the pitch, when I was appointed, with the social distancing and everything…of course it’s great for the lads but I think they missed the window of really enjoying it.

“We’re now just looking forward to getting out there and trying to make people proud of how we’re playing. in a new season.

“There’s a feeling of excitement, and a little bit of apprehension - but everyone should be a little bit nervous at a time like this.

“They’re all prepared, and there’s an excitement about the opportunity of playing in the league for a lot of the players. They’re all really looking forward and seem ready.”