United and Barrow go head-to-head in league competition for the first time in 56 years tomorrow, and manager Chris Beech admitted at his pre-match press conference that it’s a game everyone is looking forward, despite the unusual and unprecedented circumstances surrounding the day.
“It’s definitely exciting,” he told us. “These teams haven’t played each other since 1963/64, so it’s actually very exciting.
“I think everybody at both clubs has been looking forward to it. None of our players were born when we last played, and that includes myself, but some of our fans will have been. They’ll have been fortunate enough to watch that game the last time we played here.
“It’s such a shame that nobody can watch this weekend’s fixture. As players, they’re concentrating on what they need to do in terms of looking to win a football match.
“Being a derby it might bring extra pressure, because teams want to do well for their fans, and I want to win every game. We’re disappointed we didn’t win last week, we created enough chances to win the match never mind draw it, we have done in all three league fixtures, so we’ve just got to keep sticking to those traits.
“There’s obviously room for improvement in areas, of course there is, there is in what would be more classed as a perfect day. We’re looking to implement what we do against an energetic team that are close-knit, with the success they had last year, they’ve got great staff. I think it’s a great occasion.”
As to what type of game we can expect, he said: “I’ve so much respect for them, for the staff as well, and the backroom staff that David [Dunn] has got together has great experience.
“The players have done ever so well to do what they did last season. There were a lot of arguments in terms of what should have happened, with the lockdown, but that’s all gone now. They’ve been promoted and they’ll want to progress.
“They’re going to be challenging, up for it and energised, but so are we. They’re looking to play football, they have physicality and runners up top, they have an outstanding midfield player who looks to get his shots off, came through the Blackburn academy and is skipper of the team, so he’ll work very hard.
“They’ve got some players with league experience, like Mike Jones, and there’s a few that aren’t playing at the moment but have that knowhow. They’re competitive, organised, they’ve got a free hit in terms of approaching this season, they’ll have a real good go on the back end of massive success.
“They’ll want their first win whoever they’re playing, it just happens to be us this weekend. We also want to get our second home win, whoever we’re playing. I think this game will have a bit of an added edge, but I think it would have been massive if supporters could be here to watch.
“The players understand that it is a derby, I’ve made sure even our mate from France Gime [Toure] knows it’s a derby. It’s another game, we’ve got to make sure we do what we do, we know we won’t get everything on our terms. It would be nice to go out and get the first goal then enjoy the afternoon, but Barrow aren’t just going to let that happen.”
Barrow come north of the fells with David Dunn looking to make a mark, having been installed as the new boss for the Bluebirds ahead of pre-season.
“David’s had all sorts of roles since he finished playing – he’s coached, assisted, managed, I think he’s been a football agent, many different things,” he said. “With Rob, there’s a lot of people who’ve worked long in football, it’s because they have great attributes.
“Rob Kelly is one of those men in football that any club would be honoured to have involved, because he’s got so much experience and knowledge. He was excellent when he was helping Uwe Rosler out, he’s been at the top, developing youth, he’s done everything.
“It’s just a shame for us all that there’ll be no fans. We played in some big games last year. The Cardiff occasions, things like that, were great occasions and the atmosphere we created and tempo we played that, really does add to players’ energy.
“It’s like going in a party, if the music’s not great and nobody’s there, it’s pretty dead, so we’ve just got to create our own tempo and energy. It’s just a shame the inner circle, the people who live in the city, can’t watch.”
With midfielder Mike Jones having got off the mark for his new club last week, the manager spoke highly of the former-Blue who made the switch to Holker Street during the summer.
“He’s got no point to prove at Carlisle,” he insisted. “He did four years of commendable, excellent, professional service. He’s got nothing to prove to Carlisle or the Carlisle people.
“These things have different strands, it’s not just as simple as what it could be looked at through a fresh pane of glass. Without delving into too much detail, Mike left and he’s joined Barrow. He obviously has connections with David in the past, they’ve connected, so well done to him. He’s a great bloke, great professional, I have so much respect for people like that.
“It was obviously a tough call when he left, but it’s a tough call on anyone. But it was difficult, within that period Mike was well paid, if you go back in time, I think Carlisle produced a squad that was heavily paid to get promoted and it didn’t do it.
“The fall out of that was big wages, and big bonuses that were still current. It affects the future of trying to rebuild. Often if you ask somebody to reduce what they get and run twice as hard it doesn’t add up. It’s sometimes better for a fresh change.
“Mike on a personal level had a situation where he was wanting to see his child a little bit more. He’s Sheffield based. Barrow train in Manchester, maybe that’s a massive thing for him.”
And with striker Scott Quigley back in the fold, who bagged 20 times during the promotion push last season, he commented: “He’s a big threat. He’s big, isn’t he, and a threat, so that’s bang on.
“And he’s full of willing running at the moment because he’s had such a great experience, from not quite getting what he wants from Blackpool and having to go to TNS, he’s found a harder route so I have no doubt he’ll look after that as much as he possibly can.
“We’re aware of what Barrow have but we have to make sure we impose ourselves.”
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