Earlier this week the Beespod chaps of which I’ve been a guest of a couple of times managed to get the one everyone wanted and has been waiting for, the Barnet FC chairman Tony Kleanthous in the first of a two part interview.
Below, fellow Bees fan Jim Kavanagh takes us through this first part of the interview giving his reaction to answers provided by Tony and what he hoped would be asked in part 2 (NB this was written prior to the second part being released):
It’s really hard to respond to Part 1 of the Beespod interview with TK, without first listening to Part 2, but the fact that it’s happening at all fills me with enormous optimism. I first have to declare my undying love for Keith Doe as a result of his ‘death threat’ over the Westley debacle; but I must also applaud TK for what is a pretty emphatic owning of most/all of our problems since we were relegated. When he speaks so passionately and honestly, (and I have absolutely no reason to believe he is being anything other than honest), he really is engaging and the podcast was a great listen.
For much of the interview, Mem and Iain simply let TK ramble on, because there was no need to interrupt. It probably shouldn’t come as any surprise to us that he is so passionate about the club. I think that those who questioned his passion for the club upset him. It’s one thing to be critical of him and highlight the many mistakes that have been made, (and let’s not pretend that there aren’t many mistakes). It’s quite another to say that he doesn’t care and that the decisions were made with anything but the best intentions at heart. I certainly didn’t believe that even before the 1st half of the interview was released and I think that it’s even harder to hold that opinion after listening.
There is a section of the interview that starts at 38:16 and for me is key. I think we should pay attention to it rather than flippantly skip over it as some throw-away comment because it’s really not. It’s key to everything.
TK: “The problem was this. It’s very simply this. It’s me alright. It’s me; and it’s me because of this. When we got relegated….. I can’t tell you…. That season broke my heart. bla bla bla bla bla. From that day, I feel like I disengaged.“
That right there in a nutshell is the whole shebang. He talks us through what happened, (and why it happened), and why he made some of the rubbish decisions he made, (which are still rubbish don’t get me wrong), but don’t seem quite so awful when you put yourself in his shoes at that time, (with the exception of the Westley decision of course because there is just no way he should ever have agreed to that and he knows it now and knew it then). It was a symptom of the malaise that was affecting TK’s decision-making then and it took the failure of both Beadle and then Flowers, (and the risk of relegation to Conference South), to snap him out of it.
Within part of the conversation that I have missed out above, is the decision-making process/thinking behind the appalling Westley appointment, (which was actually made by Mark McGhee). I would also add that the only reason we were looking for a new manager at this point was because of the disgusting personal abuse aimed at Rossi Eames, that made him feel that he didn’t want to continue in the role. We did that. Not you or me personally, but one of us. A Barnet fan….. “We.”….
Taking into account that we have just come to the end of a 3 day blackout period on social media, aimed at highlighting and discouraging online personal abuse of any kind, it needs to be acknowledged that this was the reason for Rossi’s leaving; and without that I don’t believe that we would have had to go through the Westley shambles that followed. Our actions have consequences and this more than anything proves that. I am confident that the squad would have responded better to Rossi than they did to McGhee or Westley, and that our form would have turned once we started to get players back, (as happened when Mad Dog returned). TK didn’t force Rossi out. He wasn’t sacked. We did that……. I often think back to that now. It’s not a nice feeling. We can blame TK all we want, but the thing that caused us to go down, (in my opinion the recruitment of Rossi’s replacement), was down to us. Let that just sink in for a moment before reading on.
I know you are all used to reading Trev’s scribblings; and I’m sure he does a far superior job of getting his thoughts into print than I, but I’m not here to blow smoke up TK or anyone else for that matter. Things generally aren’t black and white and while I personally feel quite strongly about some of this, everyone who reads this might see this a different way, and that’s fine.
There is nuance within everything and even more so when it is something that we are passionate about. Little things matter. I mean they really matter, and with that in mind we need to look forward to Part 2 of the Beespod interview and the questions that are surely coming with regards to the furloughing of contracted players, who are then replaced by players new to the club. When it happened to some of the fringe players, we tried to explain it away, (despite being critical of other clubs who had already done the same). “Oh it was just the fringe players so it’s fine“. It wasn’t fine. It wasn’t fine at all. Then it was the club captain Dunne who had just been shown a straight red against Bromley. “Oh Dunny deserved it. It was a ridiculous thing to do. He should know better and we have an awful disciplinary record so it will send a message out to the rest of the squad,” (except that when loan players were sent off they were not treated in the same way and the only reasoning I can see behind it is that it was because we weren’t liable for their wages like we were with the contracted Dunne.
Then there was the furloughing of Scott Loach. He was injured and was soon furloughed, seemingly to save some cash. Teenager Aymen Azaze was highly thought of and would deputise in goal and James Callan, (another bright prospect), would sit on the bench. Then the unthinkable happened against high-flying Sutton Utd. Just before HT, Azaze suffered a serious facial injury that saw him hospitalised and forced 16 year old Callan into the fray. This was fine as a substitute for the Sutton game, (where it should be said he was unlucky not to keep a cleans sheet), but Bassey surely wouldn’t allow him to start the remaining games without a backup keeper on the bench. The answer was seemingly obvious. Loach was fit, (not a surprise considering him being a consummate professional), so get him back in and Callan would revert to the bench and all would be well with the world(ish).
No. That’s too simple for TK. Instead, he continued to keep Loach on furlough and brought in a loan keeper, (on Graham Stack’s recommendation), in what seems to many as penny-pinching at best and morally bankrupt at worst. I’m desperate to hear Mem and Iain ask TK about this. (There is no way they got Mem out of the room without him asking this question without an armed response unit being called), but I also want to hear TK defend such things as the treatment of Mauro over the years and the decision to release Elliot Johnson during the close season despite the fact that we had an option to trigger another year on his contract. (I would also like the treatment of Tarps post-injury to be brought up, but perhaps to discuss something as sensitive as that in the 1st of these interviews is expecting a little much). Of all the positions at the club, the area we have struggled with most is left back. The arrival of Beard, (only on loan which is a real shame in my opinion), only clouded the issue until the Daggers game, where we were completely outplayed from start to finish by a side where EJ played on the left of a 3 at the back and Mauro played in front of him as left wing-back. Mauro’s energy shone through for all to see and EJ just looked cool, calm and collected at all times. They are exactly what we were missing yet we discarded them in a manner that unfortunately fits in only too well with the way that we have treated our players in recent years and seemed completely at odds with the service they had given us. They are decisions that don’t make sense to me. Mauro went and played for Wingate and Finchley rather than sign a new contract with us. Who is responsible for him feeling that way?
It’s all well and good TK citing that our budget is smaller than other clubs looking to recruit the same players, (actually he was comparing us to Football League clubs rather than National League clubs), but I want to hear some sort of acknowledgement, that the way we have treated our players, (particularly our injured players at times), has an impact on our reputation as an employer within football (and it seemingly starts with TK), meaning that when players have a choice between ourselves and another similar sized club, they want more money to join us because of the “un-professional” way that we are known to act in many situations. I should also point out here that TK touched on this in Part 1 of the interview in his comment about the club’s recent staff recruitment and in particular the appointment of Ricky Bartlett to resolve the “logistics” issues which TK said, “made him cry“. These are just very small examples of a bigger problem at the club, (no food provided before/after training is something that’s really basic but links in here), but maybe this is something that has been driven by others and TK really intends a root and branch overhaul?
Something else that struck me, is the words that TK used to describe Bassey. He was very much recruited as a Coach rather than a Manager, and anyone who listened to the brilliant recent Downhill Second Half interview with Paul Fairclough, (within which he admitted that it was he who appointed Mark Robson), knows only too well that there is an enormous difference between a Coach and a Manager. I for one quite like the idea of recruitment being done by the club rather than the Manager. It’s how bigger clubs operate and I think we need to aim to be better than we are rather than cutting our cloth to match those that we find ourselves competing with at this lower, less professional level.
I guess we will just have to wait and see. Not just for Part 2 of the interview, but also if TK delivers on what he has spoken about. For me though, communication like this is an enormous step in the right direction. With that in mind, while enormous credit must go to both Iain and Mem for the groundwork in preparing the way for this Interview, (that seemed impossible only weeks ago), credit should also be given to Adam Rowe who must have been hugely influential in getting both parties sat down together. Thank you and well done to all.
Come on you Bees!
You can follow Jim on Twitter, @Jimbokav1971