David Dunn is starting his first ‘proper’ managerial job at Barrow, but he’s got plenty of advice on tap should he need it…
Whether or not Sam Allardyce is the man to solve Manchester City’s defensive problems is up for debate, but one role he’s definitely suitable for is providing valuable advice for one of the Football League’s newest managers.
David Dunn took over at Barrow this summer after Ian Evatt, the man who got them back into the Football League after 48 years away, departed for Bolton.
It’s not quite Dunn’s first job as a manager, after spells in charge of Oldham and Blackpool under what we’ll loosely call ‘troubled circumstances’, but it’s the first he’s taken with a little time to prepare rather than being thrown in mid-season. Indeed, he recently described it as his first “proper go” at management.
Still, a relatively inexperienced manager will always need some guidance, and luckily for Dunn he’s got a few decent sounding boards in his phone, having played under Allardyce, Graeme Souness and Steve Bruce, among others.
“I spoke to Sam last weekend,” Dunn told The Totally Football League Show this week. “I had a really good chat with him. All the managers you’ve you’ve mentioned, if I need their advice on anything, they’re only a phone call away, which puts me in a really privileged position
“I’ve got Rob Kelly with me who’s also really experienced coach and manager as well. He’s just been over to Germany for with Dusseldorf last season, so a wealth of knowledge right by my side as well, which is equally as important.”
Dunn may need all the advice he can get given the unusual circumstances. He has taken over a club on the up, after promotion last season, but replacing a successful manager can often be nearly as tricky as stepping in for one who failed. Imposing your own style and methods onto a team that won their division – albeit on points-per-game – last season is a tricky ask.
“The expectations are a little bit higher, obviously. Of course, Ian Evatt did an excellent job last year in guiding them into the Football League for the first time in 48 years. He did a great job with a really good group of players and a really supportive chairman and board that backed him.
“They’ve been great with me since I’ve been in the club. Everything I’ve asked for that’s been reasonable, they’ve backed me. So it’s been it’s been a good couple of months, really.”
Results haven’t matched Dunn’s optimism yet. Barrow are yet to win any of their four games so far, the latest adverse result coming in the 1-0 defeat to Carlisle at the weekend. But they did draw with Colchester (who came sixth last season) and took Derby to penalties in the Carabao Cup, so there is some hope.
Dunn also has to negotiate the slightly tricky circumstances of having to train at a local college, making the headache of maintaining day-to-day social distancing rules a potential migraine.
“It’s a little bit challenging because, in terms of the students, we’ve got to segregate ourselves, we’ve got to be careful where we’re going. We don’t bump into them constantly around the sports pavilion where we we get changed, but we’ve got to get it right.
It also presents smaller, ostensibly minor challenges that nonetheless make a difference – marginal losses, if you will. “With people on furlough [we’ve had problems] getting the grass cut now – just tiny little things that have a huge impact on us as a club because we’re trying to make it as professional as we can. We’ve obviously come from non league and we’ve got a little bit of catching up to do – which to which the club is prepared to do – but sometimes it’s out of your hands.”
Another small issue that could nonetheless hamper Barrow’s progress is a loss of momentum from last season. Usually when a club wins promotion they only have a couple of months to wait until they start life in the higher division, but they played their final game of last season in March, meaning it was nearly six months between their last National League game and their first in League Two.
“I feel Harrogate might have a little bit more momentum at the minute because they had the playoffs in between, which gives them a couple of games where they could get back together and be been training again.
“And then they got the adulation of obviously getting promoted at Wembley Stadium which was amazing for Harrogate. We got automatic promotion straight up, which was a great achievement, but it seems so long ago
“In terms of expectations, I would probably say I want to just be competitive, to be honest. Now, where you want to be competitive is up to you. But I just want us to be a competitive team in the league. We’ve got 14, 15 new players, which takes time for us to gel. But the way we’re going to the what I’ve seen over the past month, once we’ve started playing games, is is really promising. And I’m looking forward to what the season brings.”
You can hear the full interview on The Totally Football League Show. Listen ad-free on The Athletic – subscribe for £1/month here.
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