Unbeaten run extends to four games for Brennan’s Bees

Dover away this year meant the chance to banish last season’s memory, one of the many ‘minging’ performances under Tim Flowers. A side who were struggling last season along with the Bees dismantled Flowers’ side with ease in the pouring rain.

My first ever visit to the Crabble Ground situated on top of a hill above the rugby club was back in the pre-season prior to Barnet’s Football League debut, a 1-1 draw I believe which was then followed by another first, a meal in a Chinese restaurant not that I can remember where exactly the place was in Dover and I doubt it still exists!

My last visit to Crabble was live on TV, a 3-0 Tuesday night win as Martin Allen’s Bees were on the way to the league title, no such aspirations for Dean Brennan’s Barnet, merely trying to gel after a very poor start under Harry Kewell.

Dover meanwhile haven’t been able to make too many in-roads into the minus twelve points they’ve started on, a tough ask for ex-Bee Andy Hessenthaler having seen his side go part time over the summer months whilst battling to survive at National League level.

With a couple of Bees suffering from midweek knocks, there were starts for both Dan Powell and Rob Hall while Wes Fonguck was named on the bench after starting during the week at Kings Lynn. There was a change in goal with Aston Oxborough coming in for his debut, mindful of Sam Sargeant’s loan spell from Orient unlikely to be extended nor cup-tied next weekend.

A bright start from the Bees saw the ball in the back of the net after just a minute, the lively Powell crossing for Mason Bloomfield to slot past ex-Barnet loanee Adam Parkes in the Dover goal only to be ruled out for offside. However, nine minutes later there was no mistake and the visitors were in front.

Ephron Mason-Clark, who was a constant threat all afternoon down the right flank, saw his cross headed back across goal by Ben Richards-Everton for Bloomfield to direct his header past Parkes for the opening goal.

Oxborough was called into action twice after as Dover looked threatening down the left flank, two superb saves from Koby Arthurs and Matt Bentley kept the Bees in front, Arthurs looking like providing the biggest spark for the home side.

Neither side had many clear cut chances in the remainder of the half, Mitch Brundle heading wide from Josh Payne’s clipped free kick, whilst Dover trying to exploit a shaky Barnet backline didn’t really trouble Oxborough giving the Bees a half time lead.

The second half had the Bees shooting into the goal where most Barnet fans congregated behind but to begin with did little to trouble Parkes. It took until just before the hour mark as Barnet started to turn the screw a little, Bloomfield playing Powell through on goal to notch the Bees second and seemingly control of the game.

But this is Barnet after all and nothing comes easy. Pretty much out of nothing five minutes later, the home side were back in the game as Aaron Cosgrave was allowed to stride forward unchallenged and arrowed a shot past Oxborough, the keeper not at fault and unable to get anything on the ball.

The goal certainly invigorated Dover and their supporters in the crowd of 885 and the Bees had to defend their penalty area against a good few waves of attack over the final 20 minutes.

There were chances for the visitors to make the game safe, Kian Flannagan was unlucky to fire just over the bar moments after coming on and the same player hit the side netting after working himself into a good position despite better placed team mates.

A late flurry of balls into the Barnet box failed to trouble Oxborough and the Bees came away with the points and now on a four match unbeaten run under Brennan.

Not a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination but three points is three points and that’s the most important thing at the moment. Brennan is doing a fabulous job of managing minutes for a lot of players who didn’t complete a pre-season, namely Powell, Hall, Fonguck, Marriott and possibly more.

Sensible as well to bring in Oxborough ahead of the FA Cup tie next weekend, Sargeant has turned in some good performances despite a shaky start and it’s unlikely his loan spell will be extended with Aymen Azaze now recovered from injury.

Stand out performers for me, Bloomfield was excellent once again at both the hold up play and his twists and turns, Mason-Clark and Powell were constant threats down the flanks whilst Joe Widdowson was solid at left back.

Hall flittered in and out of the game, some very good touches and I think as he picks up match fitness he’ll have more influence on games as time goes on. Debut from Oxborough was on the money pretty much, his kicking though was a little suspect at times but can’t fault his saves nor the ability to come and claim the ball.

Free hit next week in the FA Cup, underdogs on current league positioning to Boreham Wood but another chance to put in a good performance with another free full week of training.

Feel for Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall, two guys with huge FL experience and hearing a section of the crowd calling for Hess’s head I’m not quite sure what else they’re really expecting this season, it’s almost a waste of a year for them when demotion to the South division would have been in their better interests and to also level up all three divisions at 22 clubs, but hey what do we know compared to the National League board!

I’m not quite sure someone else will be able to do a lot better having seen an almost brand new part time squad arrive over the summer but I could be wrong in that respect, as said above it’s almost a nothing season for Dover other than turning up for 40 odd games if they don’t soon pick up two or three wins.

It’s actually nice to see the managerial speculation shifting away from us towards Southend, the attention needs to be on the team, gaining points and getting some consistency, I’m not sure I’d be putting my money on appointing a successor to Kewell anytime soon……….

Brennan gets the Bees off the mark

I’m sure being a Barnet fan you achieve more highs and lows in one season than some fans can find in a lifetime, granted it’s more lows than highs to be honest, one thing you can’t deny is there is hardly ever a dull moment!

It was about two weeks ago I blogged the pressure was on Harry Kewell, one more loss and almost a week later he was gone. Not seen really as a surprise across the footballing world although there were a few of us who expected the ride to last a little bit longer.

I was expecting the Australian to be given two games, Bromley away and Weymouth at home. The latter coincided with the only time bar Bank Holiday Monday in August when a trip to The Hive was possible, so armed with Nick Patel that was to be the game before Kewell was out the door.

Enter stage left, Dean Brennan Head of Football. Many believe it’s now set up for the Irishman to take the main job and potentially with it the end of the structure so sought after within around six months of its inception.

Kewell seemed at times stuck in his own little bubble, his interviews pre and post-match were bland, full of nothing and details of injuries kept hidden in his back pocket.

Brennan on the other hand straight off on Friday, boom we knew who hadn’t a chance of making the game and how long they’re out for, not sure what Kewell was trying to achieve but didn’t endear himself with the Bees faithful.

Kept off the bottom only by Dover’s minus points, there is only one way to go. Reports of training and the whole week feeling like a cloud had been lifted over the Harrow complex tells you the story of maybe the past seven games, the fact that despite whatever was going to happen at The Hive on Saturday Peter Beadle’s side of last year had more points at this stage something was badly lacking.

Brennan’s decision to go with Josh Payne as a defensive midfielder at the expense of a second striker was a good choice, leaking goals for fun and if you can’t outscore the opposition then of course you must shore up your own backline.

Having watched Weymouth the week before against Dover, I was expecting the visitors to control a lot of the possession and they didn’t disappoint. Sam Shields was a constant menace down the Bees right hand side and despite getting balls into the box the Barnet centre halves of Ben Richards-Everton and skipper Harry Taylor dealt with most backed up by keeper Sam Sargeant.

Despite only playing with the one striker in Mason Bloomfield, the balls up to him were sticking and being quite a release from defensive pressure, for a big guy he has a very good touch and get’s his body in-between ball and the defender.

It was clear to see the Bees had done some work on set piece delivery during the week, corners into the box from Payne were causing the visitors a few issues, a rehearsed move of finding Richards-Everton at the back post nearly produced a goal from his header back across, Ephron Mason-Clark eventually shooting over.

It was from a corner the Bees took the lead just after the half hour mark, Payne’s delivery found Mitch Brundle unmarked in the box and his free header gave Ross Fitzsimons no chance in the Terras goal.

A set piece again nearly brought a second goal for the home side in first half stoppage time, Payne hitting the post with Fitzsimons beaten all ends up, Barnet heading into the break in front, hugely against the wall in possession stats.

Both Brundle and Mason-Clark had early chances to increase Barnet’s lead but Fitzsimons was equal to the efforts and from there on both sides traded chances without too much testing of either keeper.

The visitors found an equaliser 20 minutes from time, Shields’ cross into the box wasn’t dealt with and found it’s way to Brandon Goodship to touch past Sargeant, a taste of Barnet’s character to come for the remainder of the game.

Neither side seemed content to settle for a draw, the visitors though once again controlling possession mostly but changes for the Bees proved to be influential.

Daniel Powell on for David Sesay stole the ball from the dithering defender, powered towards the penalty area and slid the ball to fellow substitute Adam Marriott who calmly drew Fitzsimons out of his goal, and slotted home for the Bees.

Five minutes from time the home side made sure the three points were staying with them, Sam Beard’s high hanging cross was headed towards goal by Richards-Everton, crashed against the crossbar and over the line, the assistant referee signalling a goal as Marriott made sure the ball ended up in the back of the net, the defender with the goal however to give the Bees their first win of the season and a great start under Brennan.

Having heard about the different atmosphere around the training ground during the week as mentioned, the result possibly wasn’t a surprise and generally the new manager bounce as well, however had Weymouth scored first then we would have needed to see some resolve appear from the men in black and amber.

Credit to Brennan for the right substitutions at the right time, that won the Bees the game effectively. Taylor and Richards-Everton looked better as a central defensive partnership than anything else so far this year, Bloomfield as impressive leading the line as he was against Chesterfield a couple of weeks ago.

The win however means nothing if it’s not backed up with another home game this coming weekend and followed up by two sides in and around us, much work still to be done and at least we’re finally off the mark……..

Bees search again after Kewell departure

Barnet FC. The gift that keeps on giving whilst appearing a laughing stock to the outside world and the inability to stop the revolving door to the manager’s office at The Hive.

Only last midweek was I blogging that Harry Kewell was already under pressure six games in and without a win kept off the bottom only by Dover Athletic on a minus points score.

Two games I believed he had to buy some breathing space for himself, his staff and his squad. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bromley at the weekend, another side who hadn’t started well, didn’t look at all promising and the lack of a post-match interview from Kewell despite his touchline ban for a sending off at Grimsby saw his assistant Paul Butler not pull any punches.

Talking to fellow Bees fans over the weekend and others I felt he had this weekend’s home game with Weymouth to save his job, even that might not have been enough and as sure as night follows day Barnet are looking for yet another manager/head coach before we’ve reached the end of September after news broke on Monday lunchtime that the club and Kewell had parted company.

At the very beginning of this structure appointment I wanted this to work. Not necessarily for Kewell but for what was put in place and for us fans to see that things can work properly at The Hive. Being a famous name with a good reputation in the game doesn’t always translate into a good sideline coach and as we saw with Tim Flowers last year it didn’t end well.

Kewell I felt was in last chance saloon in this country as a head coach, a poor record across Football League jobs, a final opportunity maybe to succeed and if not that was him done, that will remain to be seen over the next couple of years if it’s the case.

Having spoken to people in and around the game the dynamics didn’t appear to be working between Kewell and Dean Brennan, was that Tony Kleanthous name drawing from a hat and seeing if it works or fits together? The squad to me looks a mismatch of players wanted by both, signed half and half. I could be miles out there but that’s how it looks from the outside.

To work out that regardless of the result this coming Saturday that Peter Beadle’s side would have accumulated more points than Kewell’s tells you all you need to know because six different managers before Simon Bassey tried to get a tune out of those players and thirteen games restored a little bit of pride, since demolished once again.

Just to think how many players and managers have been through those doors at The Hive since Darren Currie and Junior Lewis left the club last August makes my brain hurt. Tony’s right we do have a reputation in the game, it’s an embarrassing one at best and at the moment we’re not exactly pulling up trees to change that around are we?

The amount of money that has been wasted paying off managers and coaching staff as well in that short space of time, if there were shareholders in the club, surely they would be wincing at the balance sheet every few months, its crazy to think we must be paying off now no less than three managers and numerous others.

So what now? Well in my opinion leave Brennan to get on with appointing someone he can work with, someone who knows the division. That might limit a few being that Brennan was a National League manager in his own right just a season ago, will some see it as him lurking and waiting for the job himself?

The biggest answer would be for Kleanthous to eat humble pie and get Currie back in, that’s what kickstarted this mess in the first place. Would he want to come back? Would he want to work under Brennan? Personally I don’t believe anything more than a 1% chance of it happening, I’m stoked if it does but I’ve got no money on that at all.

The second would be to eat the same humble pie and get Bassey back to build on what he started last season, again something I don’t see happening although it would be the dream team in place that was touted to be coming in last March.

My realistic appointment is Neil Smith. Yes I know him, yes I trust him. But I also know what a passionate footballing man he is who knows this level. You don’t spend ten years at one club by luck I can assure you. This next man HAS to know how to bring the fans onside, Smudger I know will do that and if he chucked in a cheeky assistant like Ian Hendon, well you might just take the heat off yourself Tony.

27 years of supporting the Bees has never been dull ever, but quite frankly the embarrassment tag could do with dropping itself. I was already heading to The Hive on Saturday afternoon before the new broke, no doubt there will be more to come over the next few days before the weekend, just no silly appointments please………………….

Pressure starting to mount on Kewell and winless Bees

Every season when the fixtures come out there’s a list of ones I want to get to, be it Barnet, Worthing or random other clubs. Some are to meet up with mates who live further away, some are catching up with players and managers who’ve given their time for other blog pieces.

Chesterfield vs Barnet was on my list to do after the friendship struck up with Scott Loach during the ill-fated efforts of last season. We’ve kept in touch since and while it’s quite a trek from Littlehampton to the Technique Stadium on a Tuesday night I decided it was going to happen anyway!

Given the two sides respective starts to the season I definitely wasn’t expecting Barnet to come away with anything unless Loachy was going to have a mare and chuck a few in for us.

Fragile confidence inside a poor set of results so far meant it wouldn’t take much to knock the Bees over, games littered with red cards, goals conceded from needlessly given away free kicks and leads squandered so far.

The last time I saw these two sides play each other one was already relegated to the National League and other joined them 90 minutes later, neither has regained Football League membership since.

Straight from the off you could sense the Spireites were going to run at the Barnet back four and it really wasn’t a surprise when they opened the scoring just six minutes in, Kabongo Tshimanga tapping in at the far post after the ball found it’s way across the six yard box to the unmarked striker.

Now when you concede the next job is to keep it tight and get a foothold in the game, not so for the Bees. Just a minute or two later, Ben Richards-Everton was caught the wrong side of Stefan Payne and tripped the striker in the box, a yellow card for his troubles and Tshimanga giving Sam Sargeant no chance from the penalty spot for his and Chesterfield’s second.

The striker signed late on from Boreham Wood should have completed his hat-trick by the time ten minutes were on the clock, but flicked Calvin Miller’s cross over the bar.

The Bees first effort on target came five minutes later through the bright Kian Flanagan but straight down the throat of Loach. Worse again should have come Barnet’s way straight after, a lazy back pass didn’t reach Sargeant, Sadou Khan nipped in and rounded the keeper before shooting into the side netting instead of the open goal.

Pressure was only coming from the Spireites, the only outlet ball for the Bees was to David Sesay down the right flank who looked a little on a one man crusade to get the visitors back into the game.

Sargeant was again called into action ten minutes before half time with a superb double save from Tshimanga and Miller, a combination of the keeper’s smart stops and poor finishing preventing the home side racking up a cricket score by half time.

Then, out of nowhere came a mad five minutes before the half time whistle went. Serhat Tasdemir who hadn’t offered too much so far from the left hand side cut inside and saw his shot deflected in the net wrong footing Loach on the way in dead on 45 minutes.

Whilst unexpected it was a welcome way back into the game and three minutes into first half stoppage time the scoreline was undeservedly level. Sam Granville shot from distance and the deflection on this one also took the ball past Loach and into the net to give the Bees a 2-2 scoreline going into the break, something that wasn’t being contemplated amongst the 49 travelling Barnet faithful.

With an unexpected turn in the match you would have expected the Bees to have been told to come out and take the game to the hosts given the momentum was with them at the end of the half, but they failed to do so.

The home side went back in front just after the hour mark, Joe Widdowson giving away another sloppy penalty from the Barnet perspective and Tshimanga completed his hat-trick from the spot. The likelihood was coming that the home side would be the ones to notch more goals and Payne did have the ball in the net 17 minutes from time but ruled out for offside.

But it didn’t take long for the Spireites to score again, a needless free kick conceded outside the penalty area to Sargeant’s left and Calvin Gunning’s effort deflected off the wall and past the keeper to put the seal on another three points for the home side, substitute Ephron Mason-Clark forcing Loach into a save three minutes from time in what was the only on target effort for the visitors in the second half.

The ease in which the home side tore into the visitors defence proved the Bees back line is as porous as any time last season prior to the arrival of Simon Bassey in March, a clean sheet doesn’t seem to be in Harry Kewell’s armour but the midfield is not strong enough to keep creating enough chances to outscore teams.

The 4-4-2 set up in my opinion was wrong given the defensive frailties and to then take off the second striker after going 3-2 behind is slightly baffling. The other substitutions didn’t make a lot of sense either, can only think those coming off were either carrying small knocks or not match fit enough to do the full ninety.

Sesay did look good before running out of steam, Flanagan suffering from not having an experienced head alongside him, Sam Granville really not effective enough to make a difference. Great to catch up with Loachy too although we do speak occasionally on the phone as well, nice touch to clap and acknowledge the Bees fans before heading off to celebrate another win.

Kewell is running out of time to deliver for Barnet, granted the opening set of fixtures weren’t the kindest but that aren’t very many fixtures on the calendar you would expect to bank on three points, it needs to be worked on and delivered.

You can’t hide behind injuries forever, all teams suffer them and there is a squad of players to pick from, most of which are new this year.

Whilst reading currently a book on AFC Wimbledon at the moment, it of course documents well Bassey’s 17 years there and have just gotten to a point where Bass had his first caretaker role, remarking how simple he made things, went back to basics and got the players to believe in themselves again, sounds very similar to the 13 game spell at the end of last season’s disaster, I can’t help but think Tony Kleanthous made a huge, massive mistake in not tying that man to the club to continue what he started, time will tell, more likely sooner rather than later…….

Dismal day at The Hive

Ninety minutes into the season and already the word calamity is ringing around The Hive London. Well, not if you’re into weddings in a big way but the football is what we’re here for.

Circumstances dictate I can’t attend home games until the fixture list switches itself around, but I was there on Tuesday morning, invited up by Victoria Barlow who has marketing, ticketing and commercial under her umbrella.

Now please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t recall seeing news of her appointment nor yet have I seen anything describing who our new media man is, I know his name is Howard and was interviewed by Victoria and the excellent departing Adam Rowe, I don’t doubt in time if he’s half as good as Adam then it’s another asset for the club and could we do with some of those.

Having to rely on Twitter for updates and Soccer Saturday alongside isn’t ideal but needs must. But, what unfolded before, during and after the game and upon reading the Only Barnet message board on Sunday evening honestly looks like 24 hours of a horror story.

It began before the game started, Charlie Cassen arriving to celebrate his birthday (happy belated birthday mate!) with a few beers watching the early Premier League kick off, only to find out the TV weren’t working and nor were their nozzles to pour the draught beer, bizarre when the two go hand in hand really.

Now bearing in mind there were two home games at the very end of May, there has been 11 weeks to have a ‘dry run’ ready for Saturday afternoon and by all accounts it failed miserably. The TV’s did finally get turned on but the beer didn’t get poured so I read.

Short staffed was again an issue inside Legends, beer fridges almost empty and no hot water to make tea and coffee in the tea hut, all in all things were going well then!

Then we had the issue of the match itself. Despite a goal-less first 45, County seemed to edge it and the less said about the second the better. Worrying how the team appeared to capitulate and fold very quickly and having seen the goals conceded it was like rewinding 12 months, County I do expect to be in the mix of course but I wasn’t expecting a 0-5 thumping.

And then to finish the day off you couldn’t get a car park token to exit from the Hive bar having to walk back round to Legends to get one, something else not communicated.

Really not the customer experience from start to finish and a lack of application on the pitch after half time and this was something I touched on last week when I went up to The Hive, the former is something Victoria is big on so now we’ll see what can be done to deliver that.

To cap it all there was a wedding I believe underneath the North Stand meaning no fantastic bar for County fans to use, and given they brought a magnificent support to the game they deserved better as well.

This all goes to show that while over the summer the recruitment on the pitch has been more professional than last year which in all honesty wasn’t hard, but off the pitch it can look and feel decidedly amateur, some of this stuff above is the mere basics you would expect at a Step 5 club, Barnet need to get this right.

There’s just seven days until the next home game and I would expect a lot of these issues to not rear their ugly head again, I’m still undecided if I go on Monday, plenty of people I would like to see having not been able to encounter them in well over a year.

I did say also last Tuesday I will criticise when we are poor but I will praise when we are good, this has many lessons to be learnt and needs to 100x better in seven days’ time or that goodwill built up over a decent pre-season won’t just evaporate on the pitch, there won’t be much left watching it off the pitch.

Running the rule over Kewell’s signings

As many regular readers will know Barnet FC had a torrid season last time out, torrid for its supporters and some thoughts along my lines of a gamble from the chairman which came off by the skin of his teeth, however you look at it it’s done and in the history books.

Exactly a year ago today as I write this I was heading to The Hive to watch the Bees in the play-offs albeit on TV’s surround by fellow Barnet fans, but my first viewing since mid-March of the black and amber.

An end of season clear out has made for a summer of signings under new head coach Harry Kewell and head of football Dean Brennan and with a lot more quality than we saw arrive under Peter Beadle. Last year we were found lacking, but it appears this time around there is to be no mistake from Tony Kleanthous with the club in need of a big re-build on and off the pitch.

Underneath and around the top two appointments it was vital to see some continuity in Gary Anderson, Dave Anderson and physio Ollie Galloway all re-signing for the new season.

With around only 6-7 contracted players still in the building there has been massive scope for making this a Kewell and Brennan squad for the future and so far we’ve seen some good names coming through the door and one or two with points to prove or potential to be untapped.

Before the signings began, it was good to see Wes Fonguck accepting a new offer and staying with the club after an ACL injury curtailed his season early last year. A player with potential to make his mark in the game, this could turn out to be the biggest year of his career.

The day after Josh Payne was the first one through the door, experience in both the EFL and National League and a loss for Eastleigh when he moved to Woking a couple of years ago. One same day, two more joined Payne at The Hive, a striker in Mason Bloomfield and one that Bees fans were desperately wanting left back Sam Beard.

Bloomfield doesn’t have the most prolific of career stats in front of goal, but at 24 can provide the height of a target man at 6’3 and be a real threat from set pieces, he will need to have his best return ever of goals to ensure the Bees finish high up the table.

Beard was one of the two ‘need to be made’ signings. Having impressed all around the club with his loan spell at the end of last season, Beard brings a good positional sense at full back and isn’t shy of a tackle, already a fans favourite and one that should continue to prosper.

A day later, four more arrived through the doors in the shape of Jake Askew, Kian Flanagan, Jordan Thomas, and Josh Doherty. Askew arrives from Wealdstone and will compete with Aymen Azaze for the number 1 jersey although there currently is no date for Azaze to return following the nasty injury he was on the receiving end of last season so expect another keeper to likely come in, possibly on a short term basis.

Flanagan arrives from Crystal Palace, highly rated by former Bees manager and player Gary Phillips, just 21 and again with potential to make a decent start to his career.

Thomas also comes from the Premier League, Norwich City his previous club and another youngster looking to make an impression in the professional game in the right back position.

Doherty played under Kewell at Crawley and can play up and down the left hand side, giving cover to Beard whilst also allowing the Irishman to ping the ball into the box and brings a wealth of EFL experience to the club.

Hot on the heels of those boys just a couple of days later were a couple of cracking signings.

First up was striker Adam Marriott, a goalscoring record second to none at Kings Lynn and finished up the season at play-off chasing Eastleigh. Certainly, a compliment to Broomfield as a striking pair as it currently stands, a signing there that means business in my opinion if he can replicate his form in Norfolk.

The Bees added to that with the capture of title winning defender Jamie Turley from Leyton Orient where his medal comes from. At 6’1 a towering central defender who can also provide cover at right back, like Doherty his cover in extra positions will come in handy over the course of a long season and the experience he brings in alongside the youth coming in has given the squad a nice blend.

Not to be finished there, Mitch Brundle pitched up to become the 10th signing of the summer. Brundle like the two prior arrivals has bundles of experience at this level and a potential crucial partnership with Payne, Harry Taylor or Fonguck when fit could be the key to a successful season.

With arrivals there are almost always departures and it was no surprise to see centre halves Liam Daly and Matt Preston leave the club, the former having fallen down the pecking list last season whilst the latter understandably wants to play week in week out after missing so much of last season through injury and not guaranteed a starting position this time around, a mutual agreement was reached.

I don’t believe this is the end of the incomings either, potentially as many as six more to come through the door and with a big number of trialists currently featuring in behind closed doors matches one or two at least will surely do enough to earn a squad number for next season.

Already this is a good blend of experience and youth, but with all clubs around us making some useful signings it’s going to take a very, very top drawer effort to make it out of the National League……….

The double act for success?

Managerial appointments at Barnet FC are like London buses, occasionally the odd lull in waiting for the next one to arrive but not in the past 15 months or so. Thursday morning’s early news saw the latest new arrivals, yes arrivals, at The Hive tasked with a re-build that has to be the biggest under Tony Kleanthous’ reign as Barnet chairman.

Not just one through the door then but two, Dean Brennan installed as Head of Football (the Director of Football tag not loved much) and maybe to some more surprisingly Harry Kewell as the new Head Coach.

Both men have been linked to the club in the past, Brennan indeed held talks with Barnet after Peter Beadle was sacked late last year and was almost in the chair when things changed and Tim Flowers was appointed instead. Kewell was mooted last summer after the club parted ways with Darren Currie and before Beadle was given the job, the Australian ending up with a spell at Oldham Athletic.

In many ways you might say Kleanthous has finally got his ‘men’, but can they work as a partnership? It’s no secret the chairman has wanted a structure like this for a few months, people will be interested to see Brennan as the top figurehead instead of the manager or the head coach, however you like to term it.

In my opinion you have to look beyond the face value of the two appointments. Brennan knows the level and has experience of the players needed plus previous jobs around the National League. Kewell has the name which should also attract players to the club, we’re no stranger to a name at either Underhill nor The Hive, but that doesn’t breed success which we all know.

The way Kleanthous wants the structure to work is continuity. Should either of these two not prove good enough or the opposite way they do well enough to earn a move upwards then it’s set for the other to continue, whereas the past has seen us lose whole management teams, start again way beyond other clubs and then we wonder why we’re not on a level footing with everyone else.

I believe Dave Anderson and Gary Anderson will both stay as well, again that continuity which is the key word and what you have to look towards. I’ll praise Tony for this point, despite my reservations in the fact he could have done more prior to losing Simon Bassey to keep him at the club, but this structure was what he wanted when he put out his statement back in April and the first stepping stone on the floor.

The next marker will be the recruitment from these two guys over the coming weeks. We’re already behind some of the other clubs, in my mind around four weeks now so things have to move fast. Some will not be convinced that TK will put up a good budget and drive a play-off charge, but then ask yourself what is the point of a highly structured management team if there are no tools to work with?

He openly admitted that he took his eye off the ball when it comes to the football club, and in my eyes alone he has a lot to do to make up for what he’s presided over for the last 12 months, I’m sure I speak for a lot of supporters in that respect.

Both men have a lot to prove for themselves, well a third if you include the chairman too, seemingly a mixed response to the appointments on various forums and pages I’ve been reading.

Whilst it has been great blogging all things Barnet over the last six months, a lack of any other football saw to that! I can’t wait for next season to return the blog back to a non-league effort covering wherever I go which of course will include The Hive unless we’re in the middle of another meltdown in the managerial hot seat………..

The road to somewhere or nowhere?

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Well that last blog aged well didn’t it! If you didn’t get to have a look, it’s titled ‘Make the right appointment’, but Barnet being Barnet didn’t and once again we’re in familiar territory of a close season with no manager whilst pretty much the laughing stock of the National League amongst supporters, our own included.

That image above I knew was going to be the last time those particular Bees were going to be together but I wasn’t expecting one or all of the management team might also be heading out the door.

Within a day or two of me penning that blog, I had a text ‘prepare for bad news coming your way’ and with that I knew Simon Bassey was on his way out of The Hive. Having been out of contract as of the Monday I posted the blog it was no surprise to then hear clubs were sniffing around a man who had changed around the fortunes of the team in such a short space of time and no compensation was needed to be paid.

However you like to dress it up it falls on the one man making the decisions at Barnet Football Club. Yes, Bassey was offered a contract, was it good enough? Obviously not as he didn’t sign it. Did Tony Kleanthous go back with a new offer? If he did it can’t have been much better or surely it would have been signed?

I went hunting back through the statement the chairman put out in early April when Bassey arrived along with Dave Anderson, announcing his long term plan for a strategy and these two appeared to be a part of that. Has that plan already hit the buffers? Incidentally both Dave and Gary Anderson have so far had no mention of whether they are staying, if they go as well then once again the club is back in complete no man’s land which via the statement was the idea of avoiding? You seriously can’t make this up at times!

Did both Simon and Dave want to stay? Absolutely. But no assurances over his future, waiting, dilly-dallying once again from the top has cost the club the one bright spark it had this poor excuse of a season.

That brings you then to the retained list issued earlier on Friday afternoon, one or two surprises in there but then when the club is so secretive of contract lengths when signing players you’ve no idea on most what the hell is happening.

I did know a few days ago Ben Nugent was on a 2 year deal, despite the fact he’s shown a big improvement over the final few games when he was recalled to the starting line up he has a lot to prove next season. Three other centre backs are also contracted for next season which appears to be the only position where we’re completely covered providing the other three remain.

Few will point to Tomi Adeloye and Lee Vaughan being released, both worthy of contracts in a lot of opinion but without knowing who has actually had the final say then we’re shooting in the dark for answers.

From my point of view we’re in a worse position than last year. In just four weeks’ time the players will be back in pre-season training, with such a short close season clubs would have begun looking at options for next season three weeks ago so by my reckoning we’re four weeks behind today and with no manager in the chair how much further will we be down the pecking order?

What encourages Sam Beard or Sam Skeffington to sign without knowing who they’re going to be playing under? By the time you actually read this though there might be a manager but I’m not holding my breath, it took too long to get Bassey and Anderson in the door.

I’ve seen plenty across social media to suggest TK is rapidly running out of time to convince anyone that Barnet FC are worth investing your hard earned cash into let alone actually watching a game next season, I’m starting to lose the will to be honest if we are going to have this scenario every summer. I might expect it at the lower levels but a National League club with still no strategy three years after relegation from the Football League is pretty desperate.

Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and find out the last twelve months were just a dream and Darren Currie is still the gaffer, well we can all dream can’t we, just don’t wake me up from this one………………..

Image courtesy of Ben Fullylove (@BenFullylove)

Make the right appointment

Well, where do you start? Without a doubt this has been the strangest of seasons for many reasons and now it’s finished, is it time to pinch myself to find out if it really happened?

It’s been weird, it’s been bizarre, it’s been downright awful but it’s also been redeemed slightly on the pitch over the last 13 games. If we go all the way back to October when the season began, or should I say a season in which the chairman failed to see coming whilst the rest of his fellow board members had their clubs signing players and were ready to go, Barnet were caught on the back foot, but why?

A gamble if you ask me and one that only paid off in February when the North and South divisions were declared null and void and the Bees were spared a relegation that would have been much deserved in my opinion for the lacklustre response to starting the season.

Peter Beadle was out of his depth, not only in managing a National League side but attracting a decent National League player to come to The Hive and some of that was down to the timing of the appointment, way too late. Whilst the early signs were ok and no better than ok, they soon showed when coming up against sides who had prepared properly in pre-season we were not good enough and it was no surprise to see results get worse and Beadle given his P45.

Would it have been any better had Tim Flowers been appointed in the summer if as rumoured he interviewed but Beadle was chosen instead? Now Flowers might only have managed Solihull at this level but that was one up on Beadle so you work out why the former came in and the latter finally arrived in December.

Money somehow found its way into the budget for nine more players over the course of Flowers reign, some on long contracts and a squad size of 36 players! How the hell do you keep that many players happy??? In most cases the arrivals were no better than the players already at the club, ‘minging’ goals and performances were the name of the game and a measly one win in thirteen games meant the club was actually in a worse position than when Beadle was sent on his merry way back to the South West.

Both managers working off of one song sheet when it came to formations proved ultimately their downfall and again no surprise to see the club mutually part ways with the former Blackburn Rovers keeper.

The appointment of Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson took a while to come, both Paul Fairclough and Gary Anderson having short spells where they got something and then nothing out of the players, the story of the season which wouldn’t be a bestseller.

Just before they arrived after months of hearing nothing from the top office, the pen was let loose and almost destroyed the supporting side of the club in one full statement whilst burying the news of the latest person to try out the manager’s chair.

Some will say TK won’t recover much face from that despite a retraction which is probably the best way of putting it a couple of days later, it wasn’t an apology.

Now Bassey and Anderson seemed to understand what needed to be done and how to do it. A free hit for them with no relegation and one eye on next season, almost a thirteen game pre-season with players playing for new contracts in a lot of cases.

A clean sheet in the very first game was unheard of, an organised display at Maidenhead, the first time we hadn’t conceded in a game since early December. That was followed up by a first win since January, another clean sheet and a come-from-behind win at Altrincham, unbeaten in four games the best run of the season coming in April, yes April!

Then running Sutton close in a 1-0 loss but finding out a week later how far we were behind when you play the form teams, Dagenham completely outplaying the Bees at The Hive. One win in four looked to have seen the players revert to pre-Bassey days, but then a flourish to finish the season, ending Torquay’s title hopes in a game the Bees should have won followed by consecutive 2-0 wins over Maidenhead and champions Sutton Utd to finish the season level on points with Kings Lynn and only two behind Woking.

A great stat on Twitter a few days ago, Barnet had 13 points from 28 games and four clean sheets before Bassey and Anderson arrived, from their 13 games the pair picked up 18 points and four clean sheets, just goes to show what a bit of organisation can do.

As someone else put it about their record, ‘You two have not only raised the Titanic but you’ve sailed off with the band still playing.’

Simple is the easiest way of putting it. Players knew their jobs and did them, and surprise, surprise, we got results with the same set of players as the other managers used. Three arrivals only in Sam Skeffington, Sam Beard and Adam Parkes were the difference, the rest were already here.

A change of position for someone like Themis Kefalas into a defensive midfielder was a revelation and worked, getting Ephron Mason-Clark on the ball and running at defenders is what he does and again simple but it’s been very effective.

Tomi Adeloye looked like another player who had a purpose the fitter he got, the only one who needed to continue what he was doing was Michael Petrasso. One of the stranger loan signings however it came about was most welcome given the Canadian Magician’s goals and general wing play.

Talking of loan signings, regardless of whether we were paying them all or not having six at any time, which we managed twice, when only five can get into the matchday squad is bloody absurd and just goes to show how silly things got despite including that lot we had 36 players as mentioned to choose from. Don’t get me started on the furlough, we’ve done that one to death.

Don’t expect the retained list to arrive too early either, there are conversations to be had this week, no bigger ones than with Bassey and Anderson along with Gary Anderson, I am led to believe that none of the three have contracts for next season which quite honestly is scandalous given what has taken place over managerial appointments since last July, have we really not learnt anything?

Bear in mind also the players will be back in pre-season training in around 35 days’ time, that’s very, very close and we still aren’t sorted in the main role ready to plan for the start, that really does beggar belief. Recruitment should have started weeks ago so in my mind we’re already behind in preparation, doesn’t bode well at all.

The budget and quality of signings this summer will comfortably dictate where this club will finish, scrimp and save again and you’ll be lucky to stay out of the bottom three again, sub 600 crowds will be the norm at The Hive.

There’s been a restoration of pride over the last 13 games, would be silly to throw it all away because of a lack of organisation repeating itself 12 months later.

Now call it coincidence but the chairman missing the only two games the supporters could attend since December? I don’t agree with those attacking his passion and love for the club, but that was an ideal opportunity to make himself available for comments both positive and negative, huge PR opportunity missed there.

It’s never been dull being a Barnet supporter but some things are starting to wear a little thin. I took three of my podcast recording mates with me on Saturday, they were in awe of the facilities and everything we have there, it’s about time we got it right on the pitch and sustained it too, the excuses are running a little thin………

Bassey’s Bees end on a high

Image courtesy of Ben Fullylove (@BenFullylove)

The finale. The crescendo of the end. For what has seemed like a season that as gone on for an eternity, finally arrived at its conclusion and with it a second and final time heading to The Hive within a week.

The ramblings, rights and wrongs of a full season will be for another blog this coming week but Saturday was all about the champions coming to town, Sutton Utd’s final game in non-league football for the time being as they headed for the Football League, Barnet the furthest from the promised land in the National League.

Tuesday night was a lonesome trip but Saturday was an eye-opener in terms of facilities for three of my fellow PNLP podcast chaps, James Easton, Jonny Kenworthy and Pete Vale. If you haven’t had a listen we ramble on about non-league football which is some feat considering we’ve had very little since November, one more episode to record after the NL play-off final in June, available on all platforms.

Having released the superb Michael Petrasso on Friday to return home to Canada ahead of their domestic season beginning, Simon Bassey was forced into a change on the bench with fellow loanee Courtney Baker-Richardson replacing the Canadian, Petrasso’s contribution when fit cannot be under-estimated.

Changes galore for the visitors were expected but still a strong outfit faced the Bees on the pitch. On a sun-drenched afternoon both sides looked a little on the beach in the first half, for all the possession Sutton had in the opening forty-five minutes there was little to show for it, Ben Nugent and Ben Richards-Everton equal to everything thrown and crossed their way, Adam Parkes with little to do.

Ephron Mason-Clark had Barnet’s best effort mid-way through the half, his mazy run and final shot stung the palms of U’s keeper Dean Bouzanis whilst Parkes had to deal with his only shot at him, a reflex save two minutes before the break as the half time scoreline read level and the game needing an injection of quality.

As per Tuesday night against Maidenhead, Barnet came out stronger in the second half and just after the hour mark the Bees went in front in the strangest of circumstances.

An effort from Harry Taylor seemed to strike a post and into the hands of Bouzanis but the assistant referee on the far side away from the ball seem convinced it was over the line and the young midfielder was credited with his second goal in as many games after going 150 matches without one!

And while that had the error of comedy about it, there was nothing to laugh about seven minutes later when Mason-Clark’s mazy run took him across the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a fierce drive which cannoned back off the crossbar but would have been a great contender for goal of the season had it hit the back of the net.

Sutton thought they had restored parity on 73 minutes, Parkes caught slightly off his line but the ball again striking the crossbar and the home side still in front.

The points however were wrapped up in stoppage time as Josh Walker unleashed a powerful shot past Bouzanis into the roof of the net, Sam Skeffington providing a second assist of the afternoon and the Bees finishing with a three match unbeaten run taking points off the top two in the process.

Despite the changes made by the visitors a deserved win to finish the season and only goal difference kept the Bees at the bottom of the table which given the situation when Bassey and Dave Anderson arrived it’s nothing short of remarkable.

Given that the pair only added Skeffington, Sam Beard and Adam Parkes to the group, they achieved far more in less time than the previous two incumbents in the manager’s chair.

Very quickly the attention turns to pre-season with the players back at The Hive in less than five weeks but not before picking out the best of the day’s performers.

Skeffington once again turned in a man of the match performance and must be near the top of the summer shopping list, a big fan of his drive and energy over the course of his loan spell. Beard is another who must be enticed to stay, regular football at this level will do him no harm as the last few weeks have shown.

Mason-Clark should he stay will be a driving forced behind any improvement we see next season, very simply as Bassey has done with him, give him the ball and let him create havoc.

Praise again for the two Bens’, Nugent and Richards-Everton, no change given for either of the Sutton front pairing and when you think of how the former was mistake-ridden all through this season, maybe a player is in there somewhere?

The ball is now in the chairman’s court to back up his interview of a few months ago, failure to act quickly and decisively inside the next eight weeks will see the enthusiasm and pride regained over the past thirteen or so games ebb away and the bottom three will be where this club will reside in front of crowds like the 686 here to witness the final game , over to you now Tony the clock is ticking………..