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