If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s to make the most of opportunities when they come along. And as the saying goes, they can arise when you least expect them.

Normally those chances in management come around because a counterpart has lost his job, a team is lacking confidence, short of results and the fans are disenchanted.

For David Dunn, the hand he was dealt at Barrow was a little different, taking over a club riding the crest of a wave and back in the Football League after a 48-year absence.

But that’s not to say this was ever going to be a cake-walk for the 40-year-old.

He took over in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, inheriting a squad which had just nine survivors of the National League title-winning squad who hadn’t played a match since March, while the fanbase were left yearning to see their side as the gates at Holker Street remained locked.

That has left them forced to watch on an online stream, something Dunn was forced to do himself for two matches after himself testing positive for Covid-19.

That ruled him out of the 1-0 defeat to Harrogate Town and 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers where Antoni Sarcevic’s 95th minute goal denied them a first Football League win since 1972.

Dunn didn’t have to wait long to taste that winning feeling upon his return however, as after eight draws and three defeats from their opening 11 games in all competitions, Barrow got themselves up and running with a 4-2 win at Mansfield, and followed that up with a home win over Bradford City.

Covid cases within the AFC Wimbledon squad forced a postponement of last weekend’s FA Cup tie, rescheduled for later this month, with the Bluebirds returning to action in midweek in a Papa John’s Trophy tie with Accrington Stanley.

It was there the Lancashire Telegraph caught up with Dunn, who despite all he has had to contend with, had a smile on his face, and talked in glowing terms about his time in charge.

He said: “I’m enjoying being involved in a really good, down to earth, community club.

“They were on the up, but I got the job during a pandemic that no-one had heard of, it’s just a strange time in the world, not just football. The world is in a bit of a pickle.

“It’s strange not having supporters in and I hope that can change soon. I think that will help everyone. But it’s been a good few months so far.”

Dunn left Rovers in 2015 for a second time, his two spells including a combined 378 appearances and 54 goals, with no shortage of stand-out moments.

Hailing from Great Harwood, Dunn achieved his dream of representing the club he still holds dear to his heart, as a player across two distinguished spells, and then as a first-team coach in 2017.

Dunn also helped guide the club’s next generation, striking up an excellent relationship with Damien Johnson as the homegrown duo guided the club to the Premier League 2 Division Two title in 2017/18.

A member of that squad, Lewis Mansell, scored the only goal of the game on his Stanley debut in midweek, but there were more than enough signs that Dunn’s messages are getting across to his players.

They looked well drilled, with plenty of encouragement to taking risks on the ball, all built on a work-ethic required to succeed.

A mirror-imagine of someone? Dunn hopes so.

“I love my football, and I just want them to be a reflection of me, hard-working, committed, enthusiastic, and playing the right way,” he said.

A first taste of management arrived quicker than Dunn would have imagined, signing for Oldham after his decision to leave Rovers in 2015, but after just nine appearances he was put in charge, an experience he later admitted he was ‘nowhere near ready for’.

An opportunity to be back in the dugout arrived with Blackpool under Simon Grayson in February this year, but lightning struck twice, with Dunn again forced to step-in as caretaker after Grayson’s dismissal.

He never had any intentions of taking the top job at Bloomfield Road, despite picking up seven points from his four matches in charge, and was keen to continue in his role as first-team coach after the arrival of Neil Critchley.

But football, and life, moves quickly.

“I just felt that it was a really good opportunity, at the right time," he said of taking on the Barrow job after Ian Evatt’s exit

“I was really enjoying my time at Blackpool, and sometimes things can happen when you least expect them.

“That’s certainly been the case here, but I’m really enjoying it.”

His experiences as a player saw him work under the likes of Roy Hodgson, Graeme Souness, Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce at Rovers, but he still speaks regularly with Tony Mowbray who he describes as ‘a gentleman, an honest, nice guy’.

But this is Dunn’s time now, and there was no shortage of work to do after taking charge.

He explained: “When I came on board I think I had nine players from the season before, we had to do a hell of a lot of recruitment over pre-season, so it’s still a new team.

“As the season goes I’m sure we’ll get better.”

A crucial element of getting better, Dunn feels, will come with the return of the club’s supporters.

With over 2,000 fans regularly attending home matches last season, Dunn feels they will have a big impact on the team when they’re back on the terraces.

A real community feel to the club has meant Dunn has settled quickly, he even won the half-time draw in midweek that will be donated to a local charity of the supporters' choice, and appears to be a popular figure behind the scenes.

The absence of fans is likely being felt at Barrow more than most, and while he longs for their return, Dunn knows that will only come when the authorities allow.

“They’ve waited a hell of a long time to see their club back in the Football League so it’s a real shame for the supporters,” he said of today's trip to Cambridge United. 

“As soon as we get them back, the better, for them, and everyone.

“This club is such an integral part of the community and we need to get everyone back on board, when it’s safe, obviously.

“As someone who is a survivor of Covid myself, it seemed like a normal flu, but I know there are a lot more variations and that people have really struggled and suffered.

“We have to make sure it’s right, but it will be great when they’re back on the terraces.”