It is safe to say that history is against Paul Cox and his Barrow side when they face SkyBet League One club Rochdale in the FA Cup Third Round this weekend.
The Bluebirds have reached this stage of the FA Cup eleven times since they first entered the competition in 1905 but still await their first appearance in the Fourth Round.
That all plays part in the club setting a rather unwanted record for the most appearances in the Third Round, without successfully reaching Round Four.
Not that the Cumbrian side have had it easy in the Third Round!
Their path has been blocked by the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City Southampton and, most recently in 2010, Sunderland.
However it’s making history, rather than bowing to the pressure it brings, that the current Barrow players are relishing this season.
The prospect of writing their names into the club’s history books once again is one that motivates the Barrow player according to the man that has let them to one club record already this season.
The Bluebirds’ 4-1 defeat at Gateshead on New Years Eve brought an end to a club record run of twenty six games without defeat, a record that puts Cox’s side above any other that has represented the club in their proud history.
Now, with Rochdale in their sights, Cox hopes that his side will become history makes once again.
“We have talked about the record, about being the first Barrow side to make it into the Fourth Round” admitted Cox.
“It’s a motivation, a big motivation.
“This club has a proud history, we are a former Football League club, so to become the first side in that history to reach the Fourth Round would be very, very special.
“But we have a very tough game ahead of us”
SkyBet League One Rochdale provide the “very tough game” for Cox and his Barrow side.
And in the opposition dugout will be a familar face for the former Mansfield Town boss.
Keith Hill is in his second stint as Rochdale manager, having ended a five year spell in charge of the club in 2011 to join then Championship club Barnsley.
Following a defeat by Blackburn Rovers in December 2012, Hill was sacked by the Tykes but within two months he had returned to Spotland to take charge of Rochdale once again.
He replicated his success in his first spell with the club by leading them to promotion into League One in 2014, with a 2-0 win over Cheltenham Town sealing their elevation into English football’s third tier.
Now an established League One club, Rochdale sit in the play-off places, challenging with former Premier League clubs Bradford City, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United for an unlikely spot in the Championship.
Barrow boss Cox is full of admiration for Hill and believes that he deserves another chance in the Championship even if Rochdale don’t secure another promotion.
“Keith is a very experienced manager and I think he was very unlucky in his time at Barnsley.
“He has a habit of producing good sides with a limited budgest and winning a lot of games.
“It’s very tough for English managers right now and the path isn’t as clear as it once was.
“But I am surprised he hasn’t been given another chance in the Championship because his record shows that he deserves that”.
The odds are against Barrow, as they predictably go into the tie as underdogs.
But one aspect of the game that could swing the odds in their favour is passionate Barrow support.
Holker Street will host its biggest crowd since an FA Cup First Round replay against Oldham Athletic in 2001, when 4,368 watched the Bluebirds give their Football League opponents a stern test, only to exit the competition as David Eyres’ early goal handed the Latics a Second Round tie at Hull City.
Indeed, the famous old ground will witness its biggest crowd since the Bluebirds FA Trophy Semi Final second leg against Colne Dynamoes in April 1990.
On that day the Barrow faithful saw their club secure a 2-0 win over the Dynamoes, with it came a 3-1 aggregate win and a Wembley place in the FA Trophy Final against Leek Town, a date that went down in the club’s history as they won the competition for the first time.
Now Cox is aiming to put smiles back on to the face of the Barrow supporters and give the town some pride in their football club with a positive result on Saturday.
“When I came here the chairman spoke about building the brand and most importantly about putting smiles back on to the faces of the public.
“At this stage in the season the people of Barrow are used to witnessing the key part of a relegation battle. This is no disrespect to anyone that has gone before me here but I think we were seen as whipping boys.
“The club would yo-yo between this division and the one below, it was the same old Barrow.
“But now we are changing the perception of the club. We are giving the town and our supporters a bit of pride in the club.
“We want to continue showing the work ethic they like to see, the future is bright but we can’t stop now.
“We want to put smiles on faces on Saturday and give our supporters a good result because we know that they deserve it”
One person in Holker Street crowd will have a smile on his face no matter what the result is come five o’clock on Saturday.
Barrow owner Paul Casson was born in Barrow, but made his fortune in the United States.
Texas, to be precise.
Work commitments in the United States meant that Casson, a lifelong Bluebirds supporter, could only witness their previous two Third Round ties from afar.
But now, after celebrating New Years Eve back in his hometown, Casson is ready to throw his vocal support behind the current crop of Barrow heroes.
He said “I did come back to celebrate New Year in Barrow and it is well-timed, it will be a special moment.
“I watched the Sunderland tie in 2010 on TV in the USA and there was quite a bit of interest out there.
“The year before we went to Middlesbrough and that wasn’t on television, so that was a bit frustrating.
“It has been a while in coming and I am looking forward to the game on Saturday.
“I know we will play well, the players will give their all and so will the supporters”
Casson went on to pay tribute to the man chosen to lead the improvement in fortunes at Barrow, hailing Cox as “a very special manager”.
Although he joked that if any opposing sides are reading this article then he is, in fact, “quite poor really”.
“Paul is a very special manager and we were very fortunate that he was available when we wanted him.
“He works every day of the year and the results show that his hard work is paying off for us.
“I think he is enjoying it, he seems to be anyway.
“I saw on a Tranmere Rovers blog that some supporters said if he was there manager, they would be back in the Football League already.
“That shows what people think of him, although if any one from an opposition club is reading this they should know he is quite poor really”.
The final word, quite rightly, goes to Cox himself, as he promised that his players will give their all as they seek another place in the history books.
“We know what is at stake, we know the size of the task, but we will give it our all for the club and the town.
“I can promise the supporters that will happen and hopefully that will be enough to get a good result”
And if it does, Cox and his Barrow side, will have the club’s record books rewritten for a second time this season.
Article: Mark Carruthers
Images: Reuters (www.actionimages.com)/ Barrow AFC