Raised expectations

The Hive

So the non league season is well underway and in the National League four games are already in the history books. By the end of the month, each club will have completed eight matches and the table should begin to take some form of shape.

But, the title, play-offs and relegations issues will not be sorted out by the end of August, however it is a good time to set the bar or just get yourself in behind the chasing pack. This time last year, Barnet were still winless. It would take another two more games to get off the mark in the W column but this season has already seen a contrast in form.

Darren Currie’s men were unbeaten until a late Dover Athletic goal on Tuesday evening ended that record and the Bees sit on seven points from four games. Not a bad return so far bearing in mind how last season started and then continued all through the campaign. So far the Bees have dispatched both sides relegated from League Two and taken a point off Sutton Utd but fell a bit short against Dover.

Much has been made of the lack of strike power from a new centre forward, despite scoring in the first three games. It has been said that some targets were very close to signing, but hopes dashed at the final hurdle, why, only those players could tell you the story. Many put it down to cash, it’s still August and free agents will be chasing the best deal anywhere.

Only Currie and Tony Kleanthous can tell you what is in the pot to sign a player, it won’t go up I’m pretty sure of that unless players dip out on loan or Currie manages to move one or two on to free up wages. Sometimes I think it’s forgotten that Barnet still have a top heavy squad, into the late twenties, despite moving around seven players on in the summer. Five of those are already strikers, should another one sign then surely one or two will need to head out on loan to stay sharp and prove a point, Josh Walker a likely candidate as he returns from injury.

There needs to be goals coming from midfield and just as importantly from set pieces as well. It worked well for Callum Reynolds on Saturday at Notts County, but centre halves need to be chipping in with seven or eight a season, the days of Greg Heald, Mark Arber and Mike Basham seem very much long gone. More recently you’ve only got to look towards the likes of Nicky Bailey and Dean Sinclair to show that goals around the team wins titles.

Panic buttons don’t need to be hit though, it’s four games into a marathon season, we won’t win every game and sometimes the players will fall below the standard Currie wants, that’s why they are National League players in some respects. There is a manager in charge with a passion to succeed, a wanting for the players and the club to succeed and occasionally it will fall short. The fact he interacts with fans constantly on Twitter, a lot will be envious across other clubs of the honesty. I sometimes wish TK was like Andy Holt, the Accrington Chairman, again honest and transparent and it goes a long way.

Rewind the twelve months and you can see how far the team has come in that time, the FA Cup run, a more positive start to the season, in my opinion there will be more good times than bad this season, DC believes in the players, they believe in #Currieball as shown so far, we know he won’t be shy in letting the players know if the performance doesn’t match what we wants.

Would we rather be in the shoes of Chesterfield, early struggles for the second season running or Ebbsfleet, no win in four and struggling financially, of course we wouldn’t! Look for the positive, we’re as good as the best in this division, and just maybe there is an unsung hero with goals coming up……………………

Blown away, but ready for more

Currie statsThe last time I blogged was the final part of a 3 blog interview with Barnet FC boss Darren Currie. I had sponsored the then Bees Assistant Manager along with my mum at the beginning of last season, and by Xmas he was the man in charge. As part of my sponsorship I was allowed a photo opportunity with Darren, but I asked via the club secretary if he wouldn’t mind conducting an interview, to which he had no hesitation.

It’s not the first time I’ve been in Currie’s company, back in the 90’s whilst a player at Underhill I was enjoying hospitality on Boxing Day during which he notched the equaliser in a 1-1 draw and was introduced to him after the game, this time around though in a much different situation.

There was no shirking of any question I wanted to ask, not that I even entertained anything controversial to be talked about, I wanted to know about the man now the coach and memories of the player. Putting the interview from audio to print wasn’t easy, 3 long nights to do so, but what followed is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve experienced since I made it the mission to turn this writing into full time paid work.

Pictured above is the screenshot of the figures from the first piece I put up. Now, bear in mind I get 150+ visitors per month, something I’ve steadily built up over the course of time  and now see that as a regular visitor level. To get over 300 visitors in just one day blew my socks off! Granted whenever I post a Barnet piece I do put onto the club messageboard and that does always raise my figures, but not to this level!

The two days following also hit over the 150 visitors and I think I ended July as a month with over 600 visitors. It’s not just the amount of visitors too, it’s the countries people are in having a read of what I write. I appreciate some people are away on holiday or business when taking a look, but some really surprise me. I always get 3 viewings in Nigeria each month, this time around I’ve had Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Phillippines to name a few, I certainly have worldwide appeal!

There’s no denying that people enjoyed this one, hopefully as much as I did in listening and then writing it up, the question now is what next? Well, it’s been asked if it’s possible to do something similar on a monthly basis. I don’t know is the honest answer, it’s something I will explore and so watch this space on that!

There is always plenty to blog covering the non-league game, on top of that there’s plenty else I’m also involved in. At Wick this year having relinquished the Secretary role, I’ve more time to devote to the social media side and get that back to the levels it enjoyed before I got bogged down. Freeing up some time has allowed me to return to Worthing FC to create some articles and interviews for their website, whilst I’ll spend greater time on articles for http://www.o-posts.com, that I get paid for.

That is the eventual aim, to make money from doing what I do, I’ve got a start and will continue to keep looking until I can either combine it with part time work or I can find enough to make it my work. Having had so much success with this interview I’ll be on the lookout for a few more, somehow to find the time to fit them in whilst earning a wage and making sure family time doesn’t suffer, but then if you don’t have a dream to pursue, things get stale and into a rut, not for me though, I’m plugging away until it’s impossible, join me on the journey………………….

 

 

Darren Currie: Part 3, the third and final

Darren Currie

TK: How did you find the transition from player to coach to manager?

DC: I think as a player I was helpful to the people around me, I’ve always seen football very clearly in my head, I may have shown it as a player as frustration barking at people and arguing, but that’s because I had that vision. Then I became a coach at Dagenham’s academy teaching kids and you have to change your vocabulary and then when you get into senior coaching I think it’s all the information I have in my head, it’s how you deliver it, again this is another thing that Junior is very good at which is why I think we work well together. I say to the players don’t think everything I say is 100% right all of the time because it’s not, but somewhere when we have these individual meetings and sessions in training they’re very entitled to their opinion, it’s open, so I show a level of understanding but ultimately try and give them as much as I can of whats in my head which relates to their individual qualities.

For example, if they are quick players why do you not want to run in behind or if you are a Boucard you’ve got to create scenarios to get him on the ball a lot. If you’re good at crossing or passing create that scenario. It’s me trying to give them my game understanding and how we deliver it to them so there’s plenty of analysis and conversation, it’s my love for the game and I wanna see people smile and be happy and maximise their abilities and that’s how I try to transfer it into them, sometimes we get it spot on, other times they frustrate me and they know they frustrate me and I let them know they have, but it’s because I want the best for them.

TK: How would you describe the influence of John Still on your career?

DC: I enjoyed playing under John, when I was playing under him at Barnet he allowed me to play the way I needed to play and the shape and system benefitted my attributes, obviously I had my best mate (Sam) Stockley behind me who did all my running, I look after him now for all he did for me with those legs! Funnily enough when I went to Wycombe (Dan) Senda was my little runner as well, but it worked well because it was something that they were good at, getting up and down which allowed me to do what I could do, and John allowed me to do that.

What you learn from him as a manager, coach or assistant is his day to day dealings with people, his man management skills how he recruits people, listen he’ll tell you he doesn’t always get it right but it was always very interesting to watch him, listen to him, how he speaks with agents, with other clubs etc but I’ve taken little chunks from all the managers I’ve played under, even the bad ones, ones I didn’t on with at all, doesn’t mean they didn’t have qualities I’ve tried to use myself. You take a little bit of everyone and blend it together, what you are and what you think and hopefully have a successful 15-20 year career as a manager.

TK: What do you think it is that draws people into Barnet? As I said to you earlier, I’ve been coming for 22 years now, built up some good friendships in that time. To me there is something that draws you in, you come once and then think I’ll come again.

DC: I think non-league football does that anyway doesn’t it! There’s a real loyalty around non-league football I know that from watching my dad play for his various non-league sides, a big family feel about it. Barnet really had that when I played for them and I always believe that fans come in hope week in week out that we will get on this run that will see us climb the league and head for the heights.

Barnet’s been good as being a family club, I just believe they come in good hope to see good football, good attacking football, climb the leagues and come back to that word again, continuity, instead of being that yo-yo club and we’ll turn that big corner one day.

TK: Do you think the comparison to your uncle Tony helped or hampered your early career?

DC: Well I thought I was better than him to be honest! Better hair anyway! I’ve stated a million times before for 2-3 years in my career I didn’t have a name, I wasn’t Darren I was nephew of, but it didn’t matter I was proud of him, he was an unbelievable player forgetting we’re blood related. He was a big help to me when I was younger and while the name might have been a weight around my neck to begin with, there’s worse players I could have been compared to!

TK: Final question, whats your favourite memories of Underhill?

DC: Hmm, I think I got a hat-trick in Cottee’s first game didn’t I!?

TK: Yes you did, 7-0 vs Blackpool

DC: I thought it was 7-1?

TK: Nope they didn’t score.

DC: Yeh, 7-0, I’ve still got that ball at home. That was memorable very much so.

TK: Do you remember Lincoln at home 4-3 after being 3-0 down before Tony Richards got the winner?

DC: I don’t remember that no (scorer of the equalising goal was a certain Mr Currie). I scored early on when I signed, a League Cup game against Wolves, I remember that. I don’t recall too many bullet header’s, so we’ll move on from that! I’ll be honest, I don’t remember too much of the finer detail but as a general memory I used to love playing at Underhill because I felt and all you wanted to feel as a player is you go out there and see the ball as a beach ball as your confidence is through the roof and you feel like you can do anything.

And then when you’re not confident there’s a little bit of tension in the crowd and the ball gets smaller, like you’re playing with a marble, but I always liked it, it was home when I played at Underhill and I could just go and do whatever I wanted and even when I made mistakes, like everyone else, I always felt everyone was on my side and it really helped me grow up as a player because I’d been to Shrewsbury and I did ok there, then on loan to Plymouth but I felt my time at Barnet was when my career began which led to my move to Wycombe and on goes the story.

My memories there are really bad hairstyles, really bad, Rod Stewart like, I’ve so many other nicknames, but you know what we had a real togetherness in that group, I’m still in touch with all of them, Warren Goodhind, Dooley, Ken Charlery I spoke to the other day, Warren Hackett’s a very good friend, Stockley, Lee Harrison, so unbelievable memories of playing at Underhill and I suppose I’d better mention so people don’t think I’ve deliberately left it out, I do remember missing a penalty against Torquay, I accept responsibility for that. But yeh, great memories that helped me grow and improve my career.

 

My great thanks to Darren Currie for taking time out of a busy Friday afternoon to chat to me.

Darren Currie interview – Part 2

DC

As promised this is part two of the interview with Darren:

TK: Fans love your honesty in the after match interviews, do you feel it’s what the supporters deserve rather than sugar coating around performances that haven’t been to the level you expect?

DC: Listen, football fans know what they’re watching you can’t bullshit them. So, at the end of the day I say it as I see it and people don’t have to agree with me and there’s always plenty of discussion before a game between me and Junior, he’s the most detailed football person I’ve ever had in my life, he breaks down in such fine detail and that’s how I see the game. Plenty of debates and discussion between me and Junior and we know what we want to see.

Being honest about what I’ve seen is the least everyone deserves, I’m honest with the players I’m not gonna lie to them, they know my feelings, Junior knows my feelings so I think it’s only right the fans get an insight into what I’m feeling, but a case of picking my words more carefully, yeh they deserve honesty, at least they can’t look back and deny I’ve not been truthful!

TK: Having been a former player at Underhill and obviously now here at The Hive with its great facilities, what do you think the club’s vision should be for the next 10, 15, 20 years?

DC: The set-up at The Hive and the way the chairman is looking to develop further as well, it should be looking at League One, the Championship, beyond, why not. You know, you’ve got Bournemouth and Brighton as good examples of what can happen with short term goals and long term goals side by side, we have a wonderful facility here but there has to be some structure in place, I believe some continuity and there has to be a togetherness. And if I’m straight talking with you like we just said about being honest it wasn’t the same club that I left as a player.

It was a pleasure to play at Underhill, I didn’t enjoy running up the hill in the second half mind you, and having to take just a step to take a corner underneath the clock, it was always a joy to play at Underhill because it felt like a real togetherness, a real family club.

I sense there’s some disharmony and people a little bit frustrated with how it’s gone since we’ve been at The Hive, but it goes without saying if we’re going to go forward as a club we need to be together. I know it’s easy said and difficult to put in place but we need to make it a place for everyone, the players, the fans, the staff here, a happy place whether that’s you turning up for training every day or twice a week to watch matches, the long term goals are obviously to take the club as high as possible but short term let’s get some wins on the board, make it a happier place for everyone.

TK: How difficult is it to get in the players you want when agents are trying to get maybe a better deal elsewhere?

DC: Haha, how appropriate! I think every club; every manager will tell you that’s gonna happen everywhere even at the top level. One club is going to offer 100K, the next club will offer 150K, and so it’s the same problem but on very different levels. And that’s been the case here, it’s been very difficult to get one or two players in this summer, I can promise you now I’ve tried and tried, and it’s been hard. I’ve had several players certainly been keen to play for me and Junior and the way we want to play, The Hive and the pitch and everything, plenty of plusses but people are looking for the best deals, they’ve got families to care for and it’s the same as any job you want the best you can get.

That has led to us missing out on a number of targets and I’m sure managers up and down the country can tell you the same story, it’s a case of pound notes.

TK: Can you put your finger on why the club hasn’t established itself as a League Two or League One club?

DC: I think I’ve said it already, it’s continuity. I think there’s this turnover of players and managers that has contributed to that. I looked the other day and since 2011 there might have been 23/24 managers and on occasion as many as 4 per season! And every manager then wants to bring in their one or two players and change the style.

Obviously the last relegation led to the Under 23’s disbanding so that meant last season’s group was 37-38 players and you have your eleven who are happy because they are playing, you have the five on the bench who are happy because they are close to the team, we then had 22 moping around with the world on their shoulders so you have to spend a lot of energy trying to keep them on board and interested because they are training Monday – Friday with no purpose on a Saturday.

So, smaller numbers, a tighter nit group, a little bit of that continuity and a little bit of faith in one or two when they go through a bad patch of form, that’s managers as well, I’m not trying to plant the seed that if we have a poor start, I understand the position I’m in being results based but we need to stand by the players. I believe in them, if they can be consistent it will be better for Barnet and better for themselves as individuals, they might even stand a chance of moving onto higher levels which I’m sure is a target for every one of my players.

But once in a while you have to build a nice foundation and put a structure in place, keep your squad to a happy size and again that word, continuity will serve us well.

Darren Currie, the interview Part 1

DC 1

The managers office at The Hive. That’s where we are in the picture above and easily one of my biggest interviews so far.

‘Ruby’ as he is affectionately known was someone I met way back in 1998, after scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 Boxing Day draw at home to Plymouth and became a Bees legend for his wing play and bleach blond hair, leaving only after the club’s relegation back into non-league’s top tier.

Last season myself and my dear old mum sponsored Darren Currie at Barnet FC. Then he was John Still’s assistant, by the end of the season he was the boss and at that point became the second Bees boss I had sponsored after Edgar Davids, illustrious company no doubt about that!

Darren kindly agreed to an interview for this blog and over the course of probably 2 or even 3 blogs the questions will be answered. I’ve not left anything out that he spoke about, some of it wouldn’t make any sense if I did! As you would expect it’s honest and I think makes good reading so here goes with Part One:

TK: Do you see a big difference in the players this pre-season compared to last year?

DC: Yes I do. Last season when John (Still) was already here and me and Junior (Lewis) came in afterwards, a lot of the pre-season programme was already in place and it wasn’t the type of pre-season we have put in place this year.

We had a lot of Under 23 games here last year and I can understand why they were put on, but they were a lot of unrealistic games against what you were going to go into for the season. We found it quite difficult with a big squad and a lot of new faces as well and we didn’t score a lot of goals in pre-season, so then the buy-in factor becomes difficult because you’re trying to implement new ideas, or rather John was at the time, and with no success from that the buy-in just isn’t there and that led to the slow start we had, which you can look back at now and say that set the tone a little bit.

But what I’m seeing this year, and I know everyone wants to see new signings and believe me as I’ve stated I’ve been after one or two for the whole off season, trust me my phone bill has gone through the roof this summer but a little bit of continuity is not the worst thing in the world in my opinion, we’ve got some good players here but I know we need to add one or two.

We’ve put a much different pre-season programme in place, much thought has been given to it by myself and Junior and the rest of the staff and at the moment I feel it’s been a productive pre-season because a lot of what we’ve worked on has played out in games and we’ve had a couple of different types of test in Peterborough and Wycombe, which were a bit more realistic, and obviously the games against Palace and Arsenal you expect to spend a lot of time without the ball.

To be fair though we did see some of the ball in both games and we played well in large chunks of those games, but my point is the work ethic has been excellent meaning they are creating good habits for themselves, only the individual can do that.

TK: I imagine there was a lot of frustration last season where the players we signed at the beginning of the season were a reasonable standard for a mid-table finish and the eight game run without conceding showed there was something there but just couldn’t unlock it often enough last season?

DC: I think in any league if you show consistency then you are going to finish higher up the league and I think we showed in enough games last season we have got good players and we can be a good team but we just didn’t show that enough on a consistent basis. We had that spell like you said of the clean sheets and I think when I first took over we picked the same team for five or six games in a row which was something we didn’t manage to do often enough, we showed in flashes what we can do, but we finished where we finished because we couldn’t do it often enough.

TK: How much of a boost will it be to have Ricardo Santos and Mauro Vilhete back this season?

DC: They’re big players for us, no doubt about it! Everyone’s familiar with the pair of them, I’m actually familiar with them both away from Barnet. When I finished my playing days, I spent a little time at Hendon, and we had Mauro on loan along with Luke Gambin, while at Dagenham Ricardo came through our youth system. Both of them need to be managed because of being out for such a long time and we tried to do that with Ricardo at the back end of last season, he has an ongoing issue that just needs to be looked after but the more we can get both of these players out on the pitch on a Saturday afternoon we’ll be a better team for it.

TK: Do you think the players understand more about they’re expected to play as it seemed a bit hit and miss last season?

DC: The message has been very similar, my values about football won’t change, they won’t change if I’m here for 10 years or 10 matches. The habits I’m trying to instil in them are valuing the ball and passing the ball. I think I’ve stated through pre-season there is a fine line between passing with a purpose and passing for the sake of it, you can get caught up with the latter, but I think the message is getting there, we’ve shown with some of the goals we’ve scored recently there’s a better understanding of what I want from them. There’s no doubt I’ve made it very clear to them that I’ve played in teams that lump it back to front and I’ve played in teams that are possession based and I know from my own playing time that the hardest teams to play against are possession teams because you have to be super fit and cover a lot of ground, a lot of unselfish work. What we are this season is the same group of players with the two back that you mentioned in a fitter position, Simeon Akinola looking to be back to the player he was, Harry Taylor’s going to be better for the football he played last year and he’s looked awesome with his energy levels this pre-season so hopefully with some continuity, the same players but fitter and better at keeping the ball and working hard when we don’t have the ball.

Part 2 will follow over the next couple of days

Is your club next?

Notts County

Clubs going bankrupt or going into administration is nothing new, but why is it happening on a more common basis? You can go back to the 1960’s when Accrington Stanley a founder member of the Football League became one of the first clubs to disappear from the football radar owing thousands of pounds.

Whilst in the 80’s there were a handful of clubs who entered administration and exited pretty quickly, it was the 90’s just as the Premier League riches began to enrich the financial column, clubs started to go under. At this point, I wouldn’t say the inception of the new top division contributed to their demise but you can point to some clubs chasing the dream at the expense of a whole club disappearing.

Not all clubs come under that umbrella, Aldershot went under with owner changes failing the club and it’s supporters. I saw first hand at Maidstone Utd, owner Jim Thompson desperately chasing the Football League dream and achieving it by spending the proceeds of the sale from their London Road home, pitching up at Dartford and winning promotion.

Three years later and one huge failed planning application for a new stadium back in Maidstone sounded the death knell for the Stones and the end of a club for their supporters. Not only did that affect their supporters they dragged Dartford under as well and both clubs disappeared for a season. Both re-formed the season after but it has been a huge struggle to get back to the levels they were both at before.

I don’t think it can be denied we are at levels where clubs constantly chase the dream and in order to compete find a way to overspend. The financial gulf not just at the top levels is evident right down in non-league. As featured above Notts County are one of the latest clubs to fall into financial trouble, facing a third winding up order from the taxman at the end of this month. Having used his companies to run the financial side of the club, owner Alan Hardy is now out of funds after administration, once they ran into difficulties then the club wasn’t in a position to trade. Players, staff and managers haven’t been paid in full for June, both football and non-football creditors will be waiting for cash and the knock on effect can be small businesses closing the doors because they are owed thousands.

The financial disparity and ineffective use of the ‘fit and proper persons test’ in has certainly caused issues amongst many clubs. Portsmouth, Bolton and Sunderland to nme a few, all trying to keep pace with the Premier League and thats just to stay in it, not even to challenge for honours. All those clubs have struggled and in Bolton’s case are very much in danger of going bust and out of the Football League, the fallout from that being no club for the supporters and a return to the very bottom of non-league to start again.

In non-league club’s do the same, in some cases a millionaires play thing until boredom sets in as the big money he’s paying out on players don’t deliver quick enough. It’s a dangerous game to play where there are only one or two guaranteed promotion places, but the FA you can see aren’t at all keen to intervene, nor the rest of the footballing authorities, it’s almost seen as ‘well it happens, let it carry on, not our problem’.

Other clubs are failed by local councils and authorities, many of those forgetting the part the clubs play socially in the communities around them and only when they’re gone do they realise their worth.

Some owners I’m sure see it that if they don’t spend to achieve, supporters will accuse them of a lack of ambition, but there has to be a fine line better managed between success and a club not being around in the future. Owners need to remember that they are just custodians of the club while they are in charge, supporters are there for life.

The footballing authorities must do more to protect their clubs, they are just as guilty as the owners spending the lavish sums. I have seen it estimated that there are nearly a third of Football League clubs living outside their means and one day that will catch up with them and some will no doubt be starting at the bottom again, 100 years plus of history lost in the blink of an eye. Something has to give and it has to be for the better before our unique system comes crashing down………

Almost ready to go

Gantry

Sitting at the club, Wick FC of course, this morning watching a youth game taking place, it’s not long till the action get’s going for real. Two more pre-season friendlies for us to go on Tuesday night and then next Saturday where we have quite a unique game going on.

At Crabtree Park next weekend, it’s Wick FC vs Wick FC! No, its not an inter-club friendly, there genuinely are two Wick clubs, well actually there are more if you read the Non League paper and look towards Scotland. Our opponents, nicknamed The Owls, are travelling up from Bristol on Saturday morning and we hope they have a great stay in Sussex.

We’re hoping it attracts a few groundhoppers being that it’s something different and we see a good crowd that afternoon. Pin badges from both sides will on sale during the day for £3 each, our badge being new this season and another revenue stream however small. Fingers crossed we’ll even be getting the game recorded for our new channel Wick FC TV.

A new addition to what we’re doing this season is our home league games filmed by Your Instant Replay. It has many benefits to us and not a lot of clubs around us are using it so we hope it gives us a leg up on them! For Terry and his team, its a great coaching tool for analysis purposes. For the players they can see themselves in action and put out on social media their goal scoring exploits, saves or great pieces of play. For the club, we have our own You Tube channel, which is live now (link at the bottom of this article) and will feature full matches, a match highlights section complete with commentary and room for sponsors to have their logo permanently in the corner of each clip that is viewed. There will also be after match interviews with players and manager alike. You can’t stand still in this game or you get left behind.

We’ve had a good summer repairing and replacing things, still some things to achieve as we go on, but with a very good bunch of volunteers we all do as much as we can in every area. Our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts are doing well and posting and viewing numbers are on the up.

The clubhouse continues to be well booked for functions, a very vital revenue stream for any club of this size to keep the coffers ticking over, sponsorship renewals are beginning to filter through and we are confident of attracting a lot of new sponsors this season.

However we can make money we will, there is a win bonus this season but we’re not throwing money at players whilst the facilities need replacing and the bank account needs loving, the club has to survive and live within what we can do, sometimes it means something else has to last just that little bit longer but thats the beauty of grassroots football, book balancing is my job for the season………..

The link to our You Tube channel Wick FC TV is below, head over and subscribe:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLIByW8n_6cbh0f9PmDcz7Q