Barrow began the League Two season as one of the bookies’ favourites for relegation but round off their September programme dualling at the top of the division with leaders Leyton Orient.
With one of the smaller budgets and fanbases in the division, it feels like events at Holker Street are tracking way above expectations. But the Bluebirds’ bright start is no surprise to their rising star manager Pete Wild, who has helped a new-look team collect 21 points from a possible 27 since taking over in May.
“I’ve come in at a fantastic time. They had a couple of years of trying to find their way as a football league club but now they’re ready to progress,” Wild, who joined after three excellent seasons at Halifax in the National League, tells i.
“I was very lucky that there were a few offers on the table (after Halifax) and of all them all, this project excited me the most.”
Barrow prides itself on being a community club, funded by a group of local businessmen but also backed by a 10 per cent shareholding from the supporters’ trust.
They have ambitions to develop their academy and stadium and appointed their first sporting director, Iain Wood, over the close season.
Wood identified Wild, who had emerged from youth coaching to take over then-basket case Oldham following Paul Scholes’ resignation before his time at Halifax, as the perfect man to take them forward.
“I’m a manager and I wanted to make an incremental step. I didn’t want to make a step too far and in a couple of years it’d be a case of one step forward and two back,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure it was the right club and I’d get time to build. There’s nothing worse than a club that gives you six months to try and achieve a promotion without the tools.
“You want a club that wants to try and build things, see progression and then that takes you forward. At any successful club a manager has been given time to recruit players and build a way of playing and time to build that.”
To do that, Wild says, Barrow have aced two things. “The first is recruitment. The club deserve lots of credit for the type of players they’ve allowed me to recruit,” he says.
“Number two is the type of people we’ve recruited. We’ve recruited people who work hard, who have good experience at this level or the level below and understand what it’s like to win.
“We want to have a front foot mentality, be the aggressor in games, and not sit back and hopefully pick up points here and there. We want to be the team that goes after people, and we’ve recruited the right people to play that way.”
Wild has a unique back story. He ran pubs, was an apprentice mechanic and worked as a tree surgeon before finding a way into the game with his beloved boyhood club Oldham.
It gives him a different perspective. “I don’t feel any pressure that should football come to an end at some point, I don’t feel pressure because I know I could go back to that other life and sustain a career and get a ‘normal job’,” he says.
Saturday’s visit of Leyton Orient, who have dropped only two points in nine games, is another test. But Barrow have already defeated Doncaster and Bradford City at Holker Street and boast a 100 per cent record on home turf.
“It’s just another game. It’s only nine games so we can’t get carried away – I just want us to keep doing the things we’ve done well and have a real good go at Leyton Orient,” Wild says.