Back to work

When it comes to managers and players being appointed or moving clubs nothing should ever surprise or shock you when the news comes out. Barnet’s appointment of former striker Peter Beadle as the club’s new manager certainly comes way out of left field, much further left than I imagined but maybe not so if the financial picture is how it is or appears to be portrayed.

Before we begin this is my opinion, I don’t expect everyone to agree, thats the beauty of the game and life we’re all entitled to think how we want in lots of respects. I remember Beadle as the striker above in 2003, arriving into Martin Allen’s squad playing for nothing and giving the Bees that extra striking option that Paul McCallum gave when he finally arrived at The Hive last season.

Whilst never a prolific striker throughout his career spending the majority of his time in Bristol playing for both City and Rovers, his time early on at Gillingham earnt him a move to Tottenham although not enough to gain a single first team appearance. My last memory I can remember was a goal in a 5-1 FA Cup defeat to Yeovil Town one December before a move closer to home and Team Bath at the time.

Now it’s Beadle the manager. He has managed at this level before as caretaker manager with the previous incarnation of Hereford Utd who went to the wall one year later despite his best efforts at the time to galvanise a club that in all respects were living on borrowed time. Under his management he did keep the club in the division but was never offered job full time He was the supporters choice to manage the newly formed team in 2015 in the Midland League where he stayed for just over three years.

His record there can really speak for itself, three consecutive promotions up to the National League North and Beadle gaining a good reputation for developing young players and playing attractive football and also getting the club to Wembley in the FA Vase in 2016. I felt at the time of his sacking it was unjust after what he had previously achieved, the club were mid-table after eight games which looked alright to me but the owners must’ve been expecting top two? To be honest it was surprising to see him not get another job in the last two years, but sometimes out of sight out of mind for managers works against them.

And so to Barnet. This wasn’t the appointment me nor many others were even close to expecting, I am lucky I am privy to more information than most, I know what I can share and what I can’t when it comes to knowing what goes on. Two decent National League managers interviewed, didn’t get offered the role, another who I expected to be in running I don’t think was even close. I’m sure Ian Hendon won’t mind me saying he was very keen to get the job, but had no contact whatsoever with the club. He was also mentioned and talked about a lot across the club messageboard and Twitter.

If I’m completely honest and this is my opinion remember, the appointment is uninspiring in a lot of ways. I’m not asking for Darren Currie mark two nor do I expect Peter to interact in the same way DC did, if he does great! No disrespect to the new man either, but I’d be very surprised if he’s on the same wages to DC, it’s a cheaper option for the chairman to take given the calibre of the two I know could have been given the job. Maybe his ability to develop youth is what gave him the edge although with no good academy for us he’s going to have to find these players and quickly too before the season begins.

What he does have is a relatively clean slate to bring in his own players to suppliment those still at the club and there is a good base there. I do feel he needs a fast start to get the fans onside, DC did some fantastic work to build bridges there and somehow Beadle needs to continue that, will the budget allow him to bring in players and the right players to get results? Jury out for now on that until we get going.

I know plenty will go into this season with no expectations of what we will achieve, but not much point bothering to turn up if we’re not aiming for promotion, if the aim is to be there to make up the numbers then little point to this season.

I fully understand the financial implications across the footballing world, The Hive was meant to be the game changer for the club and whilst that was shut like everywhere else, surely there should be some profit put away from it or is it simply just sustaining itself and not providing the increase into the football club as we were led to believe as things improve off the field all the time around the complex?

I’m backing Beadle as I would anyone who manages my football club if they prove to be the right person for the job and results are the only measure, if there are a few gems up his sleeve and things look as if they are going to move in the right direction, the fans will respond. I don’t expect to win every game unless he manages to attract a PF or MA title winning side, thats naïve thinking, but we have a very thin line at our club when it comes to supporters being onside, this is either going to go one way or the other! Now I wonder if he’s up for inviting me into his office……………….

Thanks for the memories

July 2019. Darren Currie and I, you don’t ask you don’t get and Darren duly obliged with an interview the first National League manager I had ever sat down with. Fast forward 13 months and now my phone contacts list looks like a who’s who of great people who have hit the highest level of non-league management.

That month set this bog on the way to the figures I’m now getting today, it went nuts for views and visitors wanting to hear what he had to say, some insights you normally wouldn’t hear, exactly as I have tried to do with all managers and ex players I’ve interviewed and had live on video. I owe some thanks for that to DC and I know he’d be the first to say ‘it’s not me but the way you wrote the words’.

Today, Wednesday, the Barnet love affair is over for Darren with contract negotiations ending earlier this week for both himself and Junior Lewis. Very randomly Darren phoned me on Sunday evening, no need to but wanted get some bits out I guess about Southend and his own situation. I value the things all these guys tell me and I hope that I release the right things and keep some things close to me as I feel they should be, its hard because sometimes you want to tell everyone exactly what’s going on.

Whether you believe it or not, Southend was all paper speculation, looked to me like giving their fans some hope that an up and coming manager was the answer to their prayers. Some wondered why Darren didn’t take to Twitter and quash the speculation, I don’t blame him for having a couple of weeks off after the play-off loss and then seeing that team disintegrate before his eyes, but knowing that was going to be the case if promotion wasn’t achieved. I knew then also that Barnet had yet to offer him and Junior new contracts, a good two weeks passed since the Notts County defeat and not a word of contact from the chairman, does that sound like someone trying hard to keep hold of someone?

Darren wanted to stay, the chance to build his team, maybe on a much reduced budget but nonetheless an opportunity. I messaged him on Tuesday afternoon, Monday ‘didn’t go well’. That was my confirmation his time was up, never wanted to admit that to myself but it is what it is. I’ve had a blast being close to these guys all season, we’ve kept in touch through lockdown and hopefully I’ve got a few extra friends for life including Darren.

So now we move on again, but have we missed a trick? Despite whats going on around the world and here of course, could we have found some way to get some continuity at Barnet FC? Could everything have been communicated better? Yes and yes, the latter being the biggest reason this club has a divided fanbase because in my opinion they aren’t treated well. Not many people know this but a couple of fellow fans felt I should offer my services to the club, PR wise, to help things get better so I did.

I did get advised I probably wouldn’t get a reply, needless to say I haven’t and I’m not expecting one either, I’ll happily carry on what I’m doing now. Wednesday’s later statement I thought was a huge kick in the teeth for the supporters of the club, everything was ok with it until money was mentioned. Having ripped the soul out of the team, albeit the right thing to do with parachute payments gone and income scarce, but then unable to give your head coach and his staff contracts to continue their good work, we’d like to take your money for a season ticket despite the fact we have no management team nor 11 players to field, please part with your cash.

Why was that not split into two separate statements with the season ticket info coming later this week? So far by Wednesday, I think I’ve seen two positive reactions to that statement in contrast to more swear words than you’d hear from Danny Dyer’s mouth, an utter kick in the teeth in my opinion and another opening of the divide between the club and fans that Darren had being bridging with great success.

So then, attention turns to who is next in the hot seat at The Hive. Speculation will grow aplenty over the next few weeks and I have my own ideas on who might be in the frame and one or two who might not be.

Luke Gerrard at Boreham Wood will be top of a lot of lists, worked wonderfully well up the road from us and two great seasons for them out of the last three, but nice secure job currently why swop it?

Graham Stack would be welcomed back to The Hive should this be his first chance in permanent charge after assisting Hayden Mullins at Watford but also unless the Hornets dispense with his services then hard to see why he’d take the move.

I expect to see Ben Strevens’ name mentioned, also Neil Smith, people being impressed with both during my video interview when they joined Darren, however again both in secure jobs and unlikely to walk away from what they can achieve where they currently are.

My real outside choice is Kevin Watson, formerly of Ebbsfleet. When you look at his coaching CV it’s pretty impressive and I don’t doubt that had the season continued the Kent side would have not been relegated such was the good form they were in and he knows how to deal with reduced budgets, he’s one that might appeal.

There are also one or two more that stand out in the Isthmian League, lower wages are also an appeal here if thats the route Barnet are going down.

My personal choice would be Ian Hendon, Andy Hessenthaler and Lee Harrison as a trio but not sure the budget would allow for that to happen! Two who know the ethos of the club inside out and a third with unbridled passion and a future unknown at Dover Athletic, something that might appease people but they would have to hit the ground running.

For now though, thank you Darren Currie, been a pleasure to sponsor you for the past two seasons and setting this blog on its way to smashing its own records on a monthly basis, once a Bee always a Bee………….

It wasn’t to be, but it can bee

The promotion dream is over for another year, and with it the end of the 2019/20 season for Barnet. Ironically today on my Facebook memories was first time I sat down with Darren Currie, the first time these blog stats went a bit nuts!

Two consecutive weekends, and 2-0 scorelines on both occasions, but this time the Bees were on the wrong end of it and with that Notts County were off to Wembley. Quite rightly, Currie named the same eleven as started at Yeovil with Shaq Coulthirst and Simeon Akinola returning to the bench, although how fit both really were came to show later in the game.

As Currie eluded to in his post match interview, Barnet were better in-between the boxes, but lacking inside both boxes compared to last weekend, perfectly summed up and the difference between the two sides. As Bees fans we knew losing three of your starting back five would be a hard ask all through these play-offs, that as we know weakened our midfield and against a very good outfit like County you will suffer.

I’m not going to single anyone out, don’t think the players deserve that, County had that little bit extra, worked hard on not allowing any supply into Josh Walker and Paul McCallum, that gave us a lot more to think about this time around. Take three of their best players out of that starting line up and the odds might have evened up a little bit, but good luck to County in the final, promises to be a very good game against Harrogate Town.

The attention now though turns to Currie, his contract and that of the players. As we know from the video interview a few weeks ago, September is when his notice period ends and is a free agent. Rumours from Southend do not go away although the Essex outfit are less than stable and I would be surprised if they don’t go for an experienced head to steady the ship. Not taking anything away from Currie, he has supplied the solid base for something to happen at The Hive, but it’s one season in. The ball there is firmly in Tony Kleanthous’ court and in my opinion a contract offer for two years should be on the table by the end of this week at the latest.

Failure to do so will set this club back years again, which is why we end up in the circle we do. Currie finally has the opportunity to build his own team and squad having worked with those who were not his own, he should be given the chance to do so. We’ve seen the quality of the players he had brought in, James Dunne, Scott Loach and McCallum, he knows a player when he sees one.

I know there are 7/8 players considering offers, I’ve no idea how many will commit to another season at The Hive. If the manager is given almost the freedom to construct a side to win a championship players will buy into it, if Kleanthous drags his heels it could be the difference between years stuck in the National League bumbling along or having a real good crack at it.

It’s looking like being the biggest decision to make at Barnet FC for a few years, the support is closer to the team for the first time in I would say five years, the chairman can either embrace it or ignore it and if it’s the latter then I can see plenty wanting to turn their back on the club and it would show where the football club ranks in the whole scheme of things.

McCallum signing permanently will set the marker, it needs to happen to show ambition, anything less and you’re almost resigned to being happy to chug along in the middle of things. Macca showed in just a few games for us the quality, the difference between champions and also-rans, for me he would be the modern day Grazioli or Akinde.

I’m expecting the season to start on 12th September as per the EFL and Premier League, 19th at the latest, not long to build a side and to get your house in order, the clock at The Hive is ticking………..

We go again

On Saturday afternoon Barnet head north to Notts County in the National League play-off semi-final with a trip to Wembley Stadium a week on Sunday the reward.

Darren Currie’s squad eliminated Yeovil Town last weekend down in the West Country courtesy of goals from Paul McCallum and long-serving Mauro Vilhete, but it’s fair to say the hosts on another day with shooting boots and less blocking from Barnet defenders would have won the game, but it’s the Bees who make the journey to Nottingham having already won the league fixture earlier in the season.

Goals from Callum Reynolds and Simeon Akinola gave Barnet a 2-1 win and an opening six points from two games back in August. County soon found their form until lockdown intervened and were sitting 3rd in the table with hopes of catching both Harrogate Town and Barrow.

It’s not often one let alone both previous Football League relegated sides make it into the play-offs at the first attempt, just ask Chesterfield and Barnet of the previous season.

Form now counts for nothing; County were on a run of two defeats in their last ten league games whilst Currie’s men suffered just one loss in their previous 17 games. Barnet have the slight advantage of 90 minutes game time in the tank and a week of analysing what was good and what can be improved on after the Yeovil win.

But all of that still may not count for anything and the result back in August has no bearing on what will take place in 90 minutes on Saturday. Barnet defended in numbers from front to back against the Glovers and will need more of the same to reach the final.

In Neal Ardley, County have a particularly good young manager who worked hard to pull the team around from the mess of last season into a side capable of winning promotion in a truly short space of time. To show the strength of the club they released around 12 players before the play-offs leaving them with a strong squad still of 24 players whilst Currie lost three of his starting back five.

You can expect strong performances from the likes of Kristian Dennis, Enzio Boldewijn and Richard Brindley to name a few, County are strong going forward but as showed last week, Ricardo Santos, Harry Taylor and Elliott Johnson proved you’ve got to work very, very hard to get past them and onto Scott Loach.

Currie, I know will be expecting more from his players this weekend, to keep possession better and hurt the opposition, passing with a purpose. With Akinola expected to be fit for selection, doubt still remains as to whether Wes Fonguck and Shaq Coulthirst will be available, once again it could well come down to individual mistakes to win the game and with plenty of firepower available to the Bees it gives them the smallest of edges in what should be a very tight encounter.

Will that tenner still be intact for a trip to Wembley and yet another trip to The Hive after this weekend? Time will tell…………

One step closer

National League football for the first time since March, that pretty complete performance away to Woking the last time Barnet took to the pitch. Points per game ensured the Bees took their place in the play-offs at the expense of Stockport County.

The route to the final is away from The Hive, for all three games and the first hurdle to negotiate was a trip to the West Country and Yeovil Town, ironically the final game Barnet should have faced before lockdown.

With the opportunity of watching the game shown on screens in Legends Bar at the ground, it had to be done. Ninety minutes surrounded by fellow Bees fans seemed liked a good idea, a tenner including curry and a drink.

Being that we effectively snuck into the end of season party, I can’t say there was any nervous feeling for me, more just happy there was a small sense of normality returning and the chance to watch the team in action again.

As I stated in Friday’s preview it was going to be interesting to see how Darren Currie’s team coped with the loss of Dan Sweeney, Callum Reynolds and Cheye Alexander from their back line and whether Harry Taylor/Charlee Adams would line up at centre half or central midfield, either or for both.

As it was Taylor slotted in alongside Ricardo Santos and Elliott Johnson in a back three with long serving Mauro Vilhete taking Alexander’s wing back spot, a squad though that were missing Simeon Akinola, Wes Fonguck and Shaq Coulthirst with varying muscle strains.

The first half, very sketchy, a lack of penetrating runs and chances created although Town certainly had the better of the efforts with ex-Bees target Rhys Murphy finding his way often blocked by the impressive Taylor.

The hosts began the second half as they did the first, on the front foot forcing early corners, an effort from which hit the crossbar, whilst blocked tackles were coming in from all angles to halt Yeovil’s progression.

It was however soon after this the Bees took the lead, Ephron Mason-Clark setting Paul McCallum away on the edge of the box, turned back inside and sent Town keeper Stuart Nelson the wrong way.

Despite taking the lead it was Yeovil still creating the better chances after going behind, once again though the Bees were equal to everything, blocking from David Tutonda, Taylor heading out from under his own bar and Johnson playing a neat one-two off the post.

The hosts thought they were going to equalise just six minutes from time when Taylor once again got in the way of a shot that was destined for the bottom corner. Vilhete however sent The Hive into raptures wrapping up the win just two minutes later after the ball bobbled off players and a post to set up a trip to face Notts County next Saturday evening.

Despite this being a cold start for all the teams involved, Currie had expected his side to hold onto the ball better and create more chances, there is room for improvement and progress with another week’s training and some to analyse what was good and what can be done better.

Some great performances stand out from Santos and Taylor, the latter just shading MOTM for me and some crucial saves from Scott Loach to keep the score-line blank for the hosts.

With Akinola expected to be fit to return next week the boss will also have a selection dilemma as to whether he retains the same eleven or restores his top scorer to the starting line-up, whatever happens though I’m off to The Hive!

The wait is almost over: Yeovil vs Barnet

Saturday, a tiny bit of normality returns to the non-league football world for me. Actually, it’s here on Friday evening, although I am writing this before Boreham Wood take on Halifax Town in the first eliminator of the 2019/20 National League play-offs and in two weeks’ time one of six clubs will be promoted to the Football League.

I’m off to The Hive to watch the game on screens in the Legends Bar with like minded folk happy the Bees are back in action, its been a long wait. It’s not Huish Park of course but it brings back the fact that despite us knowing this virus might be dampening down a little its not going to fully go away these are to me the green shoots of recovery coming through in the non-league game.

By 5pm on Saturday though my tenner on @ 8/1 could be dust, or it could be going on for another week! This two-week battle for promotion is going to be a lottery regardless of what any fan says from the six clubs. A cold start for everyone, different squads and teams for some since lockdown began in March, there is no form to consider. My own club Barnet were on a superb run of one defeat in 17 games, a scintillating performance last time out at Woking in March but now that counts for nothing. Our opponents Yeovil Town were enjoying a fine campaign and along with Notts County, it’s the first time I can remember the seasons previous relegated clubs both in with a shout of returning at the first time of asking.

A first full season for Bees boss Darren Currie saw his side take the final play-off spot by virtue of points-per-game (PPG). The argument of those games in hand due to the weather curtailing games on what was a poor Hive pitch for most of the season should actually bring a few plaudits to Currie and his team, trying to ping the football on the ground is the way we play, Currieball, and credit should go to them for still playing that way on a surface that wasn’t fit for purpose.

There are a couple of losses from the squad which could hurt Currie’s plans, Dan Sweeney and Callum Reynolds have both chosen to move on, but the return to fitness for Ricardo Santos is a massive plus in that area and with cover alongside him from both Harry Taylor and Charlee Adams with Elliott Johnson expected to line up on the left hand side of a back three. Cheye Alexander and Dan Sparkes are two other departures from the club, but with Mauro Vilhete able to fill in at right wing back and Sparkes being a bit part player since his arrival the club those two departures shouldn’t be felt.

In attack is what excites me! The lack of playing games has allowed both Alfie Pavey and Shaq Coulthirst to get themselves fit after long term injuries, whilst Paul McCallum has returned to the club as agreed within his loan spell to add to the firepower already provided this term by Simeon Akinola and Josh Walker.

With a lack of match sharpness for all a concern across the six clubs these games may come down to punishing defensive mistakes and these five in black and amber are the reason I feel Barnet have just the edge over their opponents, at least for this weekend.

There are no advantage to being either home or away as we’ve seen in both the Bundesliga and Premier League when it comes to fans being behind the team, it’s down to ninety minutes of pure football, boy have I been waiting for this!

                                                Loach

                        Adams           Santos           Johnson

Vilhete                    Taylor               Dunne                        Tutonda

                                                Akinola

                                    Walker           McCallum

Subs: Pavey, Mason-Clark, Coulthirst, Matrevics, Elito, Fonguck, McBurnie, Vasiliou, Edwards.

What’s in a ‘name’

Tony Cottee

I think it’s fair to say that over the 20 odd years of supporting Barnet FC for me we’ve had our share of ‘names’ over the years on and off the pitch. I’ve already covered the biggest name in my opinion when Edgar Davids arrived at Underhill, and there are plenty I could mention but I don’t want to spoil a future blog that’s planned!

I’m going back to the turn of the century when a ‘name’ arrived at Underhill complete with a decent topflight reputation. Step forward Tony Cottee, a legend in West Ham Utd colours, a decent record in-between two spells at the Hammers with Everton and a slightly less productive spell at Leicester City.

Having been released by the Foxes in 2000, Cottee moved to Norwich but struggled to make the move work and was subsequently released after just seven games for the Canaries, days later linked with a move to Barnet and sure enough unveiled by Tony Kleanthous as the new player-manager as John Still moved upstairs to become a director of the club.

As it was when Davids arrived at the club, I would say the general feeling was why Cottee, who enjoyed a career at the top level in the game, wanted to drop down to the then Third Division, or maybe that was just me! Either way here he was and as with Barnet on more than one occasion I’ve experienced, this was going to be another rollercoaster ride!

Not involved in the 0-0 draw away at Rochdale, Cottee’s first game in charge was the following Saturday at home to Blackpool. I myself that day wasn’t expecting to see what I did end up witnessing, a 7-0 thumping of Blackpool with a debut goal for the new gaffer and a hat-trick from the current Bees boss Darren Currie. There aren’t too many debuts that can go better than that, and maybe it gave a false sense of belief to the incoming player-manager, who had bolstered a front line already consisting of Tony Richards, Scott McGleish, Omar Riza and Ben Strevens.

That though was as good as it got pretty much for Cottee despite a hat-trick for himself in mid-December. The team always had goals in them from all angles, but it appeared they had forgotten how to defend, goals going in started to be outweighed by those conceded.

Two wins in twelve games from the beginning of 2001 sealed Cottee’s fate and it was announced mutually to end his brief four month reign. In that short amount of time Cottee managed to take the team from the cusp of the play-offs to a side devoid of confidence, leadership and dropping like the stone towards the relegation places, indeed only five points off the bottom and having played two games more on his departure.

Rumours surfaced of players not being fit enough to see out ninety minutes and a lack of leadership from the front coupled with poor training sessions. As we know Still came back to try and halt the decline with ten games to go, but the damage was already done and relegation back to the Conference came in the final game of the season where the winner stayed up, Barnet totally off colour in the biggest game of the season and Torquay benefitted from that securing the win.

Having spoken to Darren Currie this season, a question came up about the whole Cottee experience and quite rightly as a manager now himself, Darren was diplomatic in his reply. Part of the question put to him was ‘did the players not care’, and ‘how did the team drop so low’. The answer was certainly not for the first part and difficult to put your finger on why as it was the same players, Darren’s response at the end was to say ‘he’s never been in management since so that maybe explains a few things’.

Some people make great coaches but not managers, some make great pundits but plain awful on the training pitch, we’ve got a good one at The Hive, hopefully we’re onto something special once again…………

 

Hoddle by name, Hoddle by nature

 

Carl Hoddle

Ahead of the weekend’s video interview with Barnet FC legend and title winner Gary Phillips I thought it the ideal time to look back at the biggest game in my opinion of Gary’s managerial career at Underhill. It was the first full season I followed the Bees and managed over 20 games, what a season though it was in a perverse kind of way, but more of that in another blog!

Let me paint the picture in a brief fashion, Barnet had been a nat’s whisker away from being expelled from the Football League after winning promotion to what is now League One for the first time in their history, the vote didn’t carry but the league gave all the players free transfers leaving the Bees with only a few contracted players, no money and no infrastructure off the pitch.

Step forward Gary Phillips, Ricky George, Stephen Glynne and later David Buchler who ensured I wasn’t about to see Barnet FC go the way of Maidstone Utd. But poor old Gary had a tough job getting together a squad to start the season, but start the season we did just miles behind the others in terms of fitness and organisation.

To cut a long story short the FA Cup was good to Barnet in 1993-94, a first round win over Carshalton Athletic took the Bees to Crawley Town in the second round. Being an all ticket game and unable to get to Underhill from Sevenoaks to get a ticket, a good friend of mine was able to get me one in the home end. On a bobbly pitch with nothing to lose the Bees had to work hard to defeat the part-timers, on loan Chelsea starlet Zeke Rowe put Barnet in front with an overhead kick before Carl Hoddle’s sweet sublime strike from all of 20 yards into the top corner, followed by the ‘Hoddle by name, Hoddle by nature’ quote from Clive Tyldesley and despite a late Crawley goal the Bees were into round three where the big boys come in.

And you knew what was coming! There it was Barnet vs Chelsea, Hoddle vs Hoddle and me vs my middle brother! Glenn of course was now in charge at Stamford Bridge and were not enjoying a great season at the time, Phillips’ Barnet still marooned at the bottom of the table but nothing to lose in this game. The tie was switched to Stamford Bridge with Underhill unable to hold any type of decent crowd figure with the restrictions imposed all season and off we headed in early January, in my opinion happy to keep the score down let alone anything else!

As it was Barnet defended resolutely throughout throwing themselves in front of every ball in front of Phillips but of course we all remember that in the final few minutes it was the Bees with perhaps the best chance of the game, Kelly Haag unable to get a touch on a Shaun Close cross which would have sent the Blues out of the cup, it definitely looked closer than it does on video now!

Phillips and Barnet celebrated at the final whistle, but reflection was short with Ray Clemence brought in after the game to assist Gary as a ‘general manager’. My middle brother, well he wasn’t a happy bunny on the way home that plucky little Barnet had held his team of superstars, I made sure I reminded him all the way home!

The replay went the way of Chelsea 4-0, but Barnet held firm for 30 minutes and were just starting to hear the Blues supporters beginning to show their frustration when the first goal went in, who knows what could have happened………..

Champions!

Hendo and Graz

Here we go with part two of the 2004/05 championship winning season ahead of the weekend interview with skipper Ian Hendon:

2005 began with the TV cameras at Underhill with local rivals Stevenage the visitors and after a Grazioli strike had put the Bees ahead only to be pegged back by the visitors just after half time, Ismail Yakabu’s header three minutes from time gave Barnet the three points and saw the first unveiling of the banner ‘Destiny will always take over’. A 1-1 draw at Woking and a 1-0 win over Exeter at Underhill sandwiched two cup games whilst a Roache goal at Burton Albion ended an unbeaten month for the Bees.

The first signs of a wobble appeared in February, three defeats in a row including an 4-1 loss to Carlisle in the FA Trophy, were followed by defeats to Hereford and Accrington Stanley and murmurs of discontent were coming off the pitch despite the Bees still holding a commanding lead over the Cumbrians. The slide was arrested with a 2-1 win at Underhill against Aldershot with goals from Strevens and Grazioli to close out the month.

However another loss followed midweek at struggling York City to begin March, but Fairclough’s men found their form once again and notched five successive victories in a row. A 3-0 win at lowly Leigh RMI was repeated the following Saturday against Crawley before recording the biggest win of the season, 7-1 over Farnborough at Underhill, a young keeper by the name of Jake Cole on the end of a Grazioli hat-trick. Good Friday took the Bees to the West Country and Forest Green backed by a huge travelling support and goals from Hatch and Strevens sent the Bees home with the win. The month ended with an Easter Monday victory over Canvey Island courtesy of Strevens third goal in as many games to leave Fairclough and Barnet just one win away from the title and promotion back to the Football League, all eyes were on Northwich Victoria in seven days’ time.

A trip up the M6 with John Cosgrove took us into a crowd of 1552 mainly consisting of visiting supporters including some who arrived in a limo ready for a promotion party. Unfortunately, the hosts played party poopers and with the Bees unable to get into top gear the Vics ran out 2-0 winners meaning three more points were still required to get over the line, the eyes moved back to Underhill the following Saturday.

To win a title in front of your own fans is something not all teams get the chance to do, but here we were. Almost 4000 packed into Underhill for the day, the title winning day. Halifax Town though, hadn’t read the script and took the lead early on. It looked for a while like Barnet weren’t destined to win the title yet, but Strevens again conjured up the equaliser and from that point there was only going to be one winner in this game!

King’s header put Barnet into the lead before Grazioli put the icing on the championship cake and for the second time Barnet were Conference Champions and back in the Football League with three games to spare.

A 1-1 draw at Morecambe followed where Fairclough opted to rest a few of his starting eleven, in mind the visit of Carlisle Utd coming midweek and the presentation of the championship trophy.

The Cumbrians failed in their quest to win the title and eager to avenge their 3-1 defeat back in October took the lead on the half hour before losing their discipline with two sending’s-off. Unfortunately, they failed to hold onto a lead as well, six minutes into stoppage time that man Grazioli popped up with a stunning overhead kick to start the celebrations with the final whistle moments later, as someone once said ‘Destiny will always take over’……….

The season ended with a guard of honour at Dagenham & Redbridge and defeat with the hosts comfortably winning 2-0, but the prize of a Football League place was won, and Barnet were once again heading into League Two.

 

Barnet 2004/05: Part 1

 

Grazioli and Bailey

With an interview with former Barnet player and manager Ian Hendon to come later this week I thought it’s the ideal time to take a look back at the 2004/05 season for Barnet FC. The season before had seen Martin Allen take the team into the play-off positions before leaving for Brentford.

Paul Fairclough took the reins alongside Hendon and Danny Maddix, the senior players asked to step between Allen and Fairclough, the club losing out to Shrewsbury in those play-offs on penalties.

Fairclough was appointed as manager full time after the season’s conclusion and set about shaping the squad to suit dynamic fast following football. With that came the signings of Nicky Bailey, Dean Sinclair, Ritchie Graham and Dwane Lee and a conversion to centre back for Simon King.

The season started well enough for the Bees, an opening day 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers with two goals for talisman striker Giuliano Grazioli. Despite an uneventful 0-0 draw at Farnborough in midweek, one of the games of the season took place just a few days after where a trip to Halifax brought of the best and the worst in the squad. A poor first half saw the Bees 2-0 down at half time where a few choice words and tactical changes made all the difference as Barnet scored three times in the second half including a measured lob from Grazioli sealing the win on 69 minutes.

Normal service was resumed the following Saturday as Grazioli and Liam Hatch both scored for the second week running in a 4-0 win over Northwich Victoria, Hendon and Sinclair notching the others. Two days later the unbeaten Bees headed to Essex and a Sinclair winner in front of the away end at Canvey Island took Barnet to the top of the table as August finished, a lead that wasn’t to be lost all season, but little did we know how the season was going to unfold.

September began in style! Morecambe arrived at Underhill and kept the Bees scoreless at half time. The northerners even took the lead with 10 men, but Barnet for the first time in evidence just stepped up through the gears and promptly dispatched five past the Shrimps, two more for Grazioli, and once each for King, Hendon and a first in club colours for Bailey. This was the game where I genuinely thought we could win the title despite it being very early on in the season, so much so that me and a mate stuck a tenner on us to win at 15-1, not bad odds! The reason for thinking that was the ease in which we just motored past Morecambe as if they just weren’t there, one of the defining games of the season for me.

With further comfortable wins over Tamworth and Gravesend & Northfleet, Burton Albion inflicted the first defeat of the season on the Bees at Underhill followed by Scarborough heading home with a point, the month ending with a debut for new goalkeeper Scott Tynan in an LDV Vans win over local rivals Stevenage.

October began with two more Grazioli goals in a 2-2 draw with Woking, the third successive game without a win. What followed that was another season defining game in my opinion, a trip to fellow promotion hopefuls Exeter City. My reason for this one being on the list is the side Fairclough sent out was devoid of any senior players, I believe Dwane Lee at 24 was the oldest player to feature that evening, the average age of side being around 21! The way they just dismantled the home team without a care or fear in the world reinforced the view this side could comfortably win the title despite it being only three months into the season.

Two goals from the returning Hendon against Dagenham in a 5-0 rout in front of the TV cameras set up things nicely for a trip to closest challengers Carlisle Utd, the club who decided themselves they were going to win the title as they were the biggest club! Hendon led a very young Bees side missing both main strikers in Hatch and Grazioli, but such was the confidence running through the team you wouldn’t have known they were missing.

In front of the then record crowd for this level of 9215, Barnet went in front through a Hendon penalty inside the first five minutes and doubled the lead through an own goal on the half hour, that second goal had been coming with constant chances for a team missing their first choice strikers. Despite the hosts pulling one back on half time, Lee secured the win with a third goal 12 minutes from time and no less than Barnet had deserved, the Cumbrians not expecting to have been played off their own patch and the Bees extending their lead at the top over their northern rivals. A 4-0 win over York City at Underhill the following Saturday rounded off the month and a more than comfortable lead at the top of the table.

November brought another unbeaten month in the league, a 1-1 draw at Hereford was followed by wins over Accrington and Aldershot where King’s superb late winner left the Bees seven points clear at the top of the table.

A second hard fought win in a week heralded the beginning of December as goals from Bailey, Grazioli and Lee Roache saw the Bees to a 3-2 win over Leigh RMI. The midweek trip to Crawley provided the travelling Bees with three goals of the highest quality, two strikes from Grazioli, a deft finish on the volley and a sublime chip over the keeper but the goal of the night was saved by Sinclair in injury time from all of 35 yards crashing into the net for a 3-1 win. The scoreline was repeated at the weekend, Gravesend on the wrong end of it this time, Bailey, Hatch and Sinclair keeping the Bees clear of Carlisle at the top of the table.

The Cumbrians sensed a small ray of hope over the next two games, as Barnet recorded back to back defeats for the first time this season, a somewhat surprising 3-0 reverse at home to Tamworth was followed by a 2-1 Boxing Day defeat to local rivals Stevenage. However, the year finished with a win, Roache coming off the bench to score the winner in a 1-0 success over Scarborough.

As the New Year arrived, Barnet went into 2005 with a healthy lead over Carlisle Utd who were desperately hanging onto the coat tails as Stevenage headed to Underhill on New Years Day looking for a double………..