A couple of weeks ago I sat down with former Barnet FC Head Coach Rossi Eames to talk about his long period with the club, his time with the academy and getting the big job with the first team whilst also finding out why and where it didn’t go to plan. Here is part one and part two will be out later this week:
TK: Now I’ve got you down as joining Barnet in 2009 as a video analyst, but prior to that Chesham Utd, Amersham Town and Leeds Utd as an academy coach, is that right?
RE: Yeah, that’s pretty much it, I think though more 2010 when I properly started with Barnet. 2009 I was helping out the two clubs you mentioned above whilst at The Hive, played for Chesham as well in their reserves.
I originally went to Leeds to university to study Sports Coaching Science and it went from a one month placement to being employed at Leeds Utd in the space of three months. The club was going through a difficult spell in the early Noughties and as I was doing sessional stuff rather than full time employment they could offer me what I wanted so I left and went to Malia for the summer to DJ and work behind a bar.
My mates were all 18-30 reps out there so it was just a summer of chilling out, having a laugh, not treating life too seriously. Then I had a call from Aaron Chester who was alongside Paul Fairclough at the time and explained The Hive was in the process of being built and they were recruiting for roles in the new academy structure.
So I went along and was blown away by the facilities, granted the stadium hadn’t been built yet but everything else was a good vision of where the club wanted to be direction wise.
When I started there it was on £30 a week coding games for Aaron and for Jeremy Steele with the Under 18’s. And then a month into it James Thorne asked me to get involved on the coaching side which I jumped at and within three months I was running the college programme which sat alongside the academy.
It’s where Jamal Lowe came from, he’d been released from QPR and was head and shoulders above anyone else and was picked by James to train with the youth team. Iffy Allen also came into us via the college route as well, but Jamal was the one who stood out and he’s done very, very well for himself in the game.
Whilst attending college they trained at the same time as the scholars and we could pick and pull them from that group to step up and train with the youth team it was a conveyor belt of talent coming through.
TK: Was it from there that it took you onwards to coaching the Under 16’s and 18’s at Barnet?
RE: I think it was Mark Robson was in charge at the club, I was given the Under 12s-16’s but actually coached the 16’s. Some really good players in that time too, Kier Dickson, Alfie Cain and of course Jack and Harry Taylor. Jack was a 13 year old playing under 16 football, Harry was my captain at under 15, 16, and 18, very, very bright as a footballer.
That age group though were very talented as individuals but as a team they only won one game all season so our task was to get them playing together. It can be a difficult age where they’re doing their GCSE’s, understanding life as a young adult and wanting to be a professional footballer.
The incentive for them was seeing the first team players training at The Hive on a daily basis, they could see a pathway. Luke Gambin was with us at the time and caught Martin’s eye in a reserve team friendly which got him his chance in the first team.
TK: Was there any player you thought you work their way through Barnet and go on to have a good career? I know we’ve mentioned Jamal already, was there also one who you thought would make it but hasn’t for whatever reason?
RE: There were three lads I got Jeremy to look at from Chesham and the best one from them was a lad called Tom Fouhey. All three ended up in our youth team, but Tom was the stand out player a midfielder who could go box to box, comfortable on both feet and scored goals.
He got offered a pro deal at the end of the season but was also offered a scholarship in America to study medical science and of course took the latter. I wouldn’t say he was Premier League but good enough to have a league career, possibly Championship.
Jamal we knew would get there, he had all the qualities and took a different route to make it. Iffy Allen is probably the one, but in this game it doesn’t always work out how you expect it to.
I’ll mention Kai Mackenzie-Lyle who went to Liverpool and has now won promotion with Cambridge Utd, Dillion Barnes another keeper who went down to go back up as well.
The catchment area for Barnet is so vast you will always pick up some good talent and it’s a shame there is not academy currently for the club.
That period though was my favourite time in football, the staff we had around myself and Henry (Newman) like Dean Selvey and Ian Lowe who was our psychologist around the boys and he was great around the boys especially when it came to the time they were being kept on or released, that’s a tough time mentally.
Hakeem Odoffin was another who came into us, as a striker though but he was never going to make it there, so we moved him out wide as a winger but his end product just wasn’t there either so we moved him again this time to right back, Martin saw what he liked one afternoon and we signed him up.
Matt Stevens came to us as well from Reading having scored 30 odd goals from central midfield, he came in pre-season and did well, we thought we like that. So in he went as a striker but didn’t score in the first three games and missed a hatful of chances, we thought hang on what’s going on here!
But we offered him the two year contract as a scholar and promptly banged in a hat-trick for the youth team that afternoon, what a finisher though! The goals he scored, just made it look so easy and it was the year when the first team were doing well in the National League so Martin took a very keen interest in needing one or two for odd games.
That was such a fantastic time to be around that football club, loved working with and under Martin. I got on really well with Nursey (Jon Nurse) and still speak to him now, it was just a great time for the football club.
What a lot of people won’t be aware of too is the money we got from selling on some of these youngsters before they played first team football, the money we got Malakai Mars from Chelsea was unbelievable! A lad called Rui Costa went to Norwich, Anton Hooper to Aston Villa, Hakeem was only here for eight months before his move to Wolves, it was one or two going every year.