This blog piece idea was actually given to me by a fellow Barnet fan (thanks Pete Williamson!) and one that will provoke debate and deliberation I hope, but one that will need to be re-visited at the end of the season.
The big question is, has success in the FA competitions been a smokescreen for another disastrous season for Barnet FC? Following on from last season’s relegation from the Football League, many expected the club to be there or thereabouts at the top of the table. Those of us used to non-league football know how difficult getting out of the National League has become with no instant return when the Bees have previously been relegated, but the appointment of a three times winner at this level in John Still, there was almost an expectation the club would challenge for the title. At the time of writing the club are just two points above the relegation zone but with 4-5 games in hand on those around them, so where did it all go wrong?
Player recruitment during the summer was poor despite most of those incoming to The Hive were of a decent National League pedigree. Many have under-performed and at times dragged others down with them. The lack of a consistent goal scoring striker has shown up all season, despite Shaq Coulthirst hitting the net 11 times in total this season, but without back-up from another striker. The lack of a proper defensive midfielder is not just an issue this season, it’s one of the reasons why the club has failed to stay and establish in the Football League and wasn’t addressed once again in the summer. Neither Cheye Alexander nor Callum Reynolds have consistently produced the form that prompted Still to get their signatures, Byron Harrison disappointing up front and Medy Elito flattered to deceive although he has turned in much better performances since returning from injury.
The debacle surrounding Still suddenly moving upstairs and retiring, only to pitch up as Head of Football at Maidstone Utd weeks later! It was obvious to see that things were not working out under Still and while the plan might have been for Darren Currie to take the reins next season, a move had to be made sooner rather than later for the good of the club. Currie must be given time to stabilise the club, even if that means we go through 2-3 seasons of mid-table safety without troubling either end of the table, the club needs it if progress and a return to the Football League is sought. It might not be the most exciting of league seasons to come, but it has to happen in an effort to stop being a yo-yo club.
The above you can’t help but feel has contributed to the low and dwindling crowds at The Hive. There are still many who have refused to come to The Hive, protesting still at the club no longer playing in Barnet. That yo-yo effect and lack of continuity on the management side coupled with an unattractive playing style quite rightly keeps people away, after all it’s entertainment and excitement we pay to see, it is returning under Currie, it has to be allowed to continue. The club has spent years lacking in communication with supporters and when they did it was sent out in a poor fashion. There is some improvement, that is noticeable, but with damage done over the years it will take time for people to accept it can be worked at to be better.
Flip the coin to the other side, and the cups. Before an FA Cup 4th round replay, Barnet were the only non-league side still in all cup competitions they entered at the beginning of the season. That campaign captured the imagination of the general public, not just Bees fans. Reaching the 4th round was something the club hadn’t done for years and following up a 1-0 win at a Championship side chasing Premier League football by holding another Championship outfit to a 3-3 draw in front of the nation’s cameras and a sell out Hive reignited the passion for the club.
Reaching the Quarter Finals of the FA Trophy is another to add to ‘the good about Barnet’ column, taking penalties to knock the Bees out. The club still have silverware to play for as the season enters its final months, a County Cup semi final against those ‘fake Bees’ from West London. On paper the cups make the season look successful for a club the size of Barnet, and those runs have created a mammoth amount of league games in hand.
I don’t think you can fail to agree that unless those games in hand turn into wins and propel the club towards mid-table that we’re all worrying about nothing. If those games don’t begin to yield three points soon and more often, then it can’t be denied that cup glory is masking the shortcomings of the bread and butter campaign, but this jury has to leave this one as TBC…………..