Us and Barrow didn’t exactly part on the best of terms when we came up to the Football League in 2009 – but it’s old history now. The reason for the “aggro” was our heated FA Trophy Final at Wembley; a game that records simply state we lost 2-1 after extra time at Wembley. It was also the first time we’d lost at the ‘new’ home of English football. But an inexplicable red card for David Bridges and a heinous elbow on Charlie Griffin by Robin Hulbert ensured that both of us ended the game with 10 men. Well, we finished with nine because of the aforementioned ‘challenge’.
Long story short – it stopped us doing a Conference/FA Trophy double. And it was a little frustrating at the very least as we’d kept clean sheets in both our 2009-10 Blue Square Premier meetings. Ho hum.
Our record against the Cumbrian team, otherwise, is still pretty decent as we write this. Barrow survived their first two seasons back in the Football League; their first – the 2020-1 campaign – opening up with us paying a visit, much like it was in 1998 when they were promoted to the Conference. In both those two seasons, however, relegation was lurking; the Bluebirds hanging around far too near the bottom two for their own good. Will it be a story of third time lucky? And, by which, we mean will they enjoy success on the pitch. Not will they be heading back to non-league football.
If you’re reading this in 2023, do phone us the answer.
Barrow: The Facts
Wilkie Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, LA14 5UW
The year is 1901 and Queen Victoria is shuffling off her mortal coil; blissfully unaware that Liz would come along 50 years later and completely trounce her reigning record. At the same time, Barrow FC are born. The circle of life is, in some way, complete. To start with, the Bluebirds would play in the Lancashire League and Lancashire Combination League. In 1921, title success brought with it the chance to become a founder member of the Football League’s new Division Three North. And, for the first decade or so, it was a bloody tough ask.
It did pick up a bit for the Bluebirds as they settled into Football League life. In 1967, they were even good enough to secure promotion from Division Four to Division Three. A strong opening campaign in the third tier gave way to two duff ones; the second of which sent them back into the basement division. Worse was to follow, however, as the club had to stand for re-election in 1971 and 1972. They survived the first year’s vote, but lost out to Hereford United when up again the following year. The reasons, to be fair to them, were very tenuous.
So, into the Northern Premier League they went. Six years later, they were among the select few to help the inaugural Alliance Premier League take shape. Despite being founder members of what would became the Conference, they never seemed to go more than four seasons without returning to the Northern Premier League. The Bluebirds were relegated three times between 1983 and 1992. They did win the FA Trophy in 1990, if that helps?
Why do we know the Bluebirds?
After yet another relegation in 1992, it’d be six years before they returned to the top table of non-league football as champions of the Northern Premier League. By this time, of course, Boro’ had arrived on the scene and this’d mean only one thing – a first-ever meeting between us and them. To mark their return to the Conference, we were trusted with the honour of being their opening day opponents for the 1998-9 campaign. The problem was that it was a first glance at how arduous the journey was. Still, Carl Alford scored and we won. So, all’s well that ends well there…
How to get to Barrow – Travel Information – Distance: 266 miles
Right then, are you prepared? Got the car full of petrol and a will to drive for hours? You’re gonna need it. Imagine going to Morecambe – but tack 40-odd miles on top. To start, take the northbound M1 and M6. Continue north on the M6 past Birmingham, past Stoke, past the M62 and past Wigan.
At Junction 36, leave the motorway and take the A590; the first exit on the roundabout. If you’re brave, you can try to shave off the corner by taking the A6 around Morecambe Bay. But this is an easier method.
Stay on the A590. It involves what appears to be leaving the dual carriageway and taking the first exit on the roundabout after about four miles. If you continue straight along the dual carriageway off the M6, you’ll end up on the A591 – so be alert. Stay on the Barrow-bound A590 for about 25 miles through the picturesque Lake District. You’ll be coming into Barrow-in-Furness from the north.
Shortly after entering Barrow, there’ll be a left turn for Wilkie Street where you’ll find the top end of the ground.
You can park at the ground behind the Popular side stand. From the motorway, continue on Wilkie Road as above until you reach traffic lights. Turn right and then you’ll find the car park on the right just before the roundabout. It’ll cost you £2.
Services to: LANCASTER (for LONDON EUSTON)
You’ll have to be up early for this one; the rail trip to Barrow can be around four-and-a-half hours long, according to National Rail. Once you get to the station, it isn’t much of a trek to the ground. Leave the station via the car park, and turn right up Holker Street. The ground is a matter of yards up the road on the left.
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