BARROW BOYS: Dave Bayliss, left, lifts the FA Trophy for Barrow in 2010 with co-boss Darren Sheridan
By Chris Dunlavy
Ten years ago, Dave Bayliss led unfancied Barrow to a remarkable victory over Stevenage to lift the FA Trophy at Wembley.
Three years, one relegation and the acrimonious departure of co-manager Darren Sheridan later, he was sacked.
Since then, nothing. The 43-year-old – whose CV also includes a promotion from Conference North and two appearances in the FA Cup third round – simply vanished from the football landscape.
“I’ve had offers to go back in,” explains the former Rochdale and Luton defender. “But the truth is, I don’t want to be a manager again. Not at any level. Not for any money.”
Bayliss, who spent six years in charge at Holker Street, is that rarity in football. A man for whom the bite of the managerial bug led not to a life-long dependency but a hangover so bleak that abstinence was the only option.
“I was 29 when I got player-manager,” says Bayliss. “You don’t get coached how to be a manager. There’s no easing-in period. You’re just there, and you take what’s thrown at you.
“At the time, I loved it. I made some great friends. Had some great moments. Even now, I feel very privileged to have managed a club like Barrow. I wouldn’t change it, at least not much.
“But, looking back, the toll it took was enormous. The club had no money. We had lads not being paid. The stress was constant.
“At Non-League level, it’s not as if you can delegate tasks. You’re the scout. You’re the chief negotiator during contract talks. You’re the one going out and watching games. It’s a hell of a lot, especially with all the travelling we did at Barrow.
“It massively impacted my personal life. I took everything home with me, to the detriment of my family. I wasn’t one of these people who could switch off and leave work at the front door. If we got beat, the weekend was ruined. That cost me a lot of happy times.
“I also suffered quite a few health problems, to the extent that it probably took three years to get my life back to normal. I was glad to be sacked in the end – that’s how bad it got.”
Bayliss now divides his time between a permanent role in recruitment with Championship side Millwall and a job at the NHS helping to ease ex-offenders back into society.
“I work for the NHS, rehabilitating ex-offenders,” he says. “It’s people who come out of prisons, psychiatric institutes, that sort of thing. I can’t divulge too much about it, but it’s interesting, put it that way. I’m classed as a key worker so I’m flat-out, the same as normal.
“Just before I went to Barrow, I did a lot of social work courses. But when the club went full-time, I wanted to go full-time as well.
“Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best move. Football’s an unstable career and I could have been a lot higher up the ladder in social care by now. But I can’t complain. My lifestyle’s really good at the moment.
“There’s no hassle, no pressure. I still get to watch games, but without any of the other stuff weighing on my mind.
“As I say, I’ve had opportunities to manage, at National League level and below. But I enjoy the freedom. That’s the truth.”
Isn’t there any part of him that longs for golden moments such as those at Wembley, when an extra-time goal from Jason Walker downed a star-studded Boro side that had just won the National League by an 11-point margin?
“We had some brilliant times,” he admits. “What happened that day can never be taken away and I’ll cherish it forever.
“But I’ll always remember what our physio, Liam Enwright, said to me standing on the touchline that day. He said ‘Dave, we may as well quit and walk away now. Because things will never get this good again’.
“I just laughed at the time. You’re caught up in the moment. But you know what? It was completely true. Even now, those words echo round my head.
“You hit peaks and troughs in football, and the peaks are incredible.
“But when you step back and look at it objectively, you realise that – for most people – the troughs are 90 per cent of the job.”
Bayliss still follows Barrow, who were top of the National League when football ground to a halt last month.
“To get a club like Barrow into that position – Ian Evatt’s done an unbelievable job,” he says.
“I was made up to see them up there. I just hope that whatever happens to the season, they end up back in the Football League.”