By Matt Badcock,
Ian Evatt says Barrow won’t be settling for mediocre and has full belief his Bluebirds can gatecrash the National League play-offs.
While pleased with the first half of their season, Evatt – in his first permanent manager’s job – believes there’s plenty more to come from his young side, especially after yesterday’s thrilling 3-2 victory over title favourites Salford City.
With an average age of 23, inconsistency comes with the territory but the former Blackpool and Chesterfield defender can see regular improvement.
“It’s about education, you’ve got to put the belief in the players,” Evatt told The NLP. “I believe my squad is good enough to reach the play-offs this season – I firmly believe that. Why settle for being middle of the table, why settle for being mediocre?
“Yes, it’s an improvement on last year. Yes, it’s above what’s expected and my remit. Yes, it’s exceeding what my budget is.
“But why be happy with that? Why not try and achieve something – get yourselves in the play-offs, get yourself in that shop window. I’m excited over Christmas; I want the people to come and watch us play. Those who haven’t, I think will be impressed.
“The amount of clubs we’ve been to and, we’ve not always had the right result, but we’ve had the right messages after the game in terms of the opposition chairman or manager saying what a fantastic team we’ve got. That’s good, it gives my players confidence and hopefully we can push on in the second half of the season.”
Evatt has got his side playing good football, but accepts they are in a division where teams have to be able to adapt to different challenges every week.
“It’s a physically demanding league,” he said. “You need to be able to stand up, set-pieces are huge – in all leagues but especially this league – and you’ve got to be able to mix it and take over with your brand of football. That’s something I’ve definitely learnt.
“I was wanting to win games the beautiful way whereas sometimes you really have got to fight and scrap it out and have players come up with moments of brilliance or a team goal.
“But to be able to do that you need to be in the game and that means standing up to set-pieces, long balls and second balls.”
Evatt, who was part of Blackpool’s rise into the Premier League as a player, is enjoying life in the dug-out.
“It’s tough, it’s stressful,” he said. “As a player you don’t really appreciate what goes into picking a team on a Saturday and the preparation you do for different opposition.
“As a player, I had it for many years; you turn up for training, your breakfast is there, you turn up with your toiletry bag, your kit’s there, you go out and train, you go home and switch off.
“In management you can’t switch off. You’re the one planning what they’re doing in training and the reason why you’re doing it. I’m very much of the opinion you should train how you play. So we put all the right messages into the players in the week in terms of what we want on a Saturday.
“It takes time. I have huge help from my assistant Peter Atherton, who is a great coach and a very experienced guy. I’ve also got a fantastic young team behind me in terms of my physio and my analyst who came from Chesterfield. We’re a team and we do things together, but we work hard.
“It’s extremely difficult but on the positive side it’s addictive. I was a winner as a player and I’m certainly a winner as a manager. There’s no better feeling than coming off on a Saturday knowing your players have done a good job and you’ve got the three points.”
Evatt did some Christmas shopping before the festive period with the arrival of Olly Dyson on loan from Premier League Huddersfield Town.
“We took a young kid at the start of the season from Sheffield United in Tyler Smith,” he said. “It’s his first season in men’s football. We’ve helped him develop, improved him. He got 11 goals in his first season in senior football and now he’s gone back to Sheffield United and has been on the bench in the Championship.
“So it shows you we’re doing something right. With him going back we need to bolster that side of it. We’ve taken Olly Dyson from Huddersfield – he’s another young player with a good reputation and hopefully we can do the same as we did with Tyler.”