Darren Currie: The season’s thoughts so far – Part 2

The Hive 2

Here is part 2 of the three part blog featuring Darren Currie who I sat down with again last week to catch up on how the season has shaped up so far:

 

TK: Back to back wins despite the gap between games, how much confidence do you think that will give going into the busy festive period?

DC: Winning football matches always breeds confidence we know that, and I feel if this group can get that belief and that confidence then the ability is there. We’ve seen it in flashes across the season, and because I work with these players daily and see how they operate, I know they’re a confident group and they have high expectations of each other and what they haven’t managed to do on a few occasions is get over disappointment quick.

There’s been times where we’ve come from behind in games, one or two goals down and that has shown character and confidence. Unfortunately it started to happen more often than we wanted and trying to get that confidence from disappointment back again started to shrink a bit and that was frustrating, frustrating because in 99% of games we dominate and control possession. Without putting my head in the sand, the one statistic that matters the most is goals.

We can point to plenty of games where we’ve had more shots, crosses, ball retention etc, but the opposition have scored two goals from three shots, so I’m very aware of that. It can be a confidence breaker, but what these two games have done with seven goals and looking a real threat going forward it’s them more of a belief. We have a system where players are playing in positions they’re comfortable with using their abilities and attributes. I’m asking exactly the same things of them as I was at the beginning of the season, it hasn’t changed even when the results weren’t going our way. It’s easy for me to say I knew we would come out of this sticky spell; I believe in them as a group and if as individuals they can produce a performance within our team structure, we’ll always create chances and then we just need to be more clinical in front of goal which has led to the last two games which will lead to a great mood in the changing room which will breed the confidence to take into the Christmas period.

 

TK: There’s a couple of rumours flying around of a couple of imminent additions to the squad, any truth in them and if so, are we close?

DC: There’s no doubting we need a striker and a centre half, I am constantly on the lookout for the right personnel who can improve us. Any manager in the country or indeed the world will tell you there are restrictions to any of us, I have them and so will the next manager after me and I have to abide by them, but that won’t stop me looking. If I find that one or two that can improve Barnet FC then I hope to be at the front of the queue.

 

TK: With Rihards out on loan at Hendon are there plans to send some of the younger players out as well for further experience?

DC: I’d love to, there’s nothing more I hate than these young boys coming in every week without that feeling of 3pm on a Saturday. What I’ve had to do is keep one or two of them close by because of the injuries, but once I feel I’ve got enough of my senior players back then these young ones will be shipped straight out on loan. They know my feelings; they know I want them to get out and play, at clubs which suit both us and the player, Junior and I have enough friends at all levels to get these boys out to, last season we sent Martyn Box and Antonis Vasiliou to Berkhamsted and we often had reports back saying how much of a credit they were to the club and to themselves, so I want these boys to go out and come back with experience under their belts.

 

TK: Do you think the only things lacking from us is better defending at set pieces and being more clinical in front of goal?

DC: They are the only things! Without a doubt! I hear so often ‘well they mustn’t work on set pieces because they always concede from them’ but trust me we do! Me being an attacking players all my career all I want to do in training is attacking set pieces and Junior sometimes has to rein me in and say there are other areas of the pitch to work set pieces, him being a defender he wants to be working on those. But I always want to attack and I harp on back to those statistics that we are up there with the best in the league for crosses and shots but not high enough in conversion rate. So I know my team, we can get to the final third relatively well, but clinically we let ourselves down on too many occasions, there’s no denying that, and on set pieces, Bromley at home springs to mind as does Woking here, teams we’re dominating, Stockport another one, we’re in control and because we haven’t taken the chances we get undone at the other end of the pitch, those three stand out alone that had we won all three, we’re sitting on 43 points, that’s second in the table.

JL: Sometimes it can be that lack of concentration where you’re dominating games and then they get a corner, not had one for most of the game and it’s not even been relentless defending at that point.

DC: How I view the game is teams come to us and even at their own place say well they’re gonna have more ball than us so is their emphasis in training all week on how are they going to score because they know we will have a majority of the ball? Do they work on set pieces because they see a lot of teams score against us from that situation, I don’t know? Their energy and effort goes into scoring from set pieces which I understand, our energy and effort goes into not letting it happen although we’ve not been good enough at it.

 

TK: Having sat down with Strevs (Ben Strevens) a few weeks ago, I know you two talk a lot, are there other managers you turn to for advice and relief as a young manager?

DC: I’ve got my father-in-law who is Steve Walford (ex West Ham Utd), he’s been a number two to Martin O’Neil for about twenty years. We have a lot of Sunday dinners together as a family; so I chew his ear a lot about anything to do with football, how Martin used to mange and also his man-management skills. Junior’s been in the game at the highest level and coached for a long time and he sees the game very much as I do so we talk each other to death about things in the office and on the phone. We’re constantly throwing ideas at each other, ways to improve etc. I’ve got plenty of friends in football who I’ll happily sit down with and chat football as you well know, I don’t think I have all the answers and I want to absorb as much information as I can from as many people as I can.

Part 3 will follow this week featuring questions from some of the Only Barnet message board users.

Darren Currie: The season’s thoughts so far

The Hive 2

The Hive 3

Earlier this week I went to The Hive, home of Barnet FC, to catch up with Bees manager Darren Currie for his thoughts on what has happened for his team since we sat down at the beginning of the season. This is the first of a three part blog, so settle down and read the thoughts, part 2 to follow shortly:

 

TK: Since we sat down in July, a great start with only one defeat in the first ten games and since then very much stop/start, how frustrating is the lack of consistency?

DC: Yeah, very frustrating! Obviously, we work day in, day out with these boys and we’re fortunate enough to see their quality on a daily basis. When they don’t play to their potential at a weekend it can the most frustrating part of the week for us and I believe in what they are capable of doing individually and collectively, so yeah frustration is the key word for how it’s been on too many occasions this season because when we’ve got it right and we have at times, most will tell you the best players in the world are the most consistent players and they’re the best decision makers, so what we need to do as a team and players as individuals if they have an aim of playing higher up the pyramid is to become more consistent and better decision makers, its as simple as that. Frustration is the perfect word.

 

TK: Despite the indifferent form we still sit well placed to push for a play-off place, are you maybe surprised we’re in with a shout when maybe we should be mid-table at best?

DC: I think the league is showing a lack of consistency too isn’t it, which is why anyone can go on a run and shoot up five or six places in the table. Obviously, I’m pleased that while we’ve had this spell where we haven’t gained as many points as we’d have liked we still find ourselves close enough. I think what will happen is a majority of teams will have good and bad spells throughout the rest of the season and we hope what we’ve done over the last two games against Ebbsfleet and Fylde that bad spell is now behind us and we’re more consistent through the second half of the season. The weather and pitches will have an impact on everyone as we go beyond December, the pressure will inevitably get to some teams, clubs, players etc and we must be ready to capitalise on that.

 

TK: Jack Taylor is having a stand-out season in his own right, how excited does it make you feel to have so many Academy graduates in the first team and been able to give debuts to many more?

DC: The club has done really well in recent times of producing young players, we’ve got Danny Senda running our youth team who has done a fantastic job and deserves a lot of credit for nurturing these players. He had a short brief spell with me last season when I first got the job, so I’ve seen how he is with the younger players first-hand, I know they’re in safe hands. What I’m prepared to do and Junior (Lewis) as well, because we’re football people is to look past ages and experiences and judge people just purely on football and if they’re good enough then they’re old enough, young enough, however you want to look at it, to warrant an opportunity.

Jack Taylor’s the sort of shining light if you like at the minute, obviously you’ve got Harry, Ephron, Wes, even Elliott (Johnson) who’s only 24/25 himself but he’s like an old man now really compared to the rest of them! But, he’s only a young man in football terms himself and then you’ve got young Boxy, Loic, people like that coming up behind and even if you go into the youth team you’ve got Okem and young Ronny Edwards and probably three or four more who are pushing for a professional career. They all need an opportunity and they all need a chance and the likes of Ephron and Jack are showing these players that given the right platform to showcase what they’re about they can grow into very good young players, particularly Jack whose been getting a few headlines of late but Ephron’s a special player as well, Jack I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface yet with him, so much more to come, but what he’s doing of late is impacting the football matches and that’s what someone of his ability should be doing, be it assists or goals and controlling games.

He’s got a brilliant team-mate beside him in James Dunne and on occasions Andre Boucard, now these senior boys what a lot of people on the outside don’t see is the influence these guys have on the younger players because they’re good trainers, they’re good talkers and know how to conduct themselves, so while these guys might not get the plaudits they deserve in my opinion from the outside world they’re seriously valued by myself and Junior and the staff here.

 

TK: Against Ebbsfleet we saw a change of captain in James Dunne, what was your thinking in moving away from Callum Reynolds?

DC: Just needed to relieve a bit of pressure off of him, people have a very mixed opinion of Callum which I’m aware of, but when you work with him he’s as good a professional as anyone we have at the club, conducts himself how I expect him to certainly correctly before games, how he looks after himself following games and he’s a good ball playing centre half for this league. That’s my opinion, people can agree or disagree, and he’s come under a little bit of fire, so I felt it was an opportunity to take a little bit of heat off of him. He still leads by example, he still ‘captains’ the team even without the armband.

It was a difficult conversation to have with him because of how I like him as a person and a player, but sometimes these things have to be done and it gives him a chance to focus on himself and his football.

Bees back buzzing

The Hive 1

There’s always a fine line in football between pressure and feeling comfortable, and that line is even thinner these days for managers and head coaches alike given the need and want for success yesterday.

It’s fair to say Darren Currie has experienced both sides since the beginning of this season. Early season form had both Currie and the Bees in comfortable territory, but more recently the pendulum has shifted and the hot seat has been that little more uncomfortable.

Almost two weeks ago that pressure was relieved a small amount with a 5-2 thumping of Ebbsfleet at The Hive, with Simeon Akinola notching a first senior hat-trick and Barnet looking sublime going forward, especially in the second half. With there being such a gap from that game to taking on AFC Fylde in front of the BT Sport cameras at the weekend, there was the worry that the momentum garnered from the Ebbsfleet game would wane very quickly.

That looked to be dispelled very quickly as the attacking Barnet turned up in the first half and deservedly went into the break a goal to the good, a left footed Jack Taylor strike giving the Bees the lead. Taylor is very much the stand out player for Barnet, having a fine season and also impressing for the Republic of Ireland Under 21’s. Taylor could and should have had a second before the break and that would have put the game beyond the visitors given their lacklustre performance and the Bees brightness in attacking. It has been levelled at the team quite often this season the lack of clinical finishing in front of goal and not killing teams off, this game proved to be no exception.

They almost paid for it in the second half as Fylde equalised with a very well taken free kick from Danny Rowe, a cheap free kick given away however by James Dunne. And just as looked as if Barnet would have to settle for a point, a sweetly struck corner kick from the returning Dan Sparkes right onto the head of Akinola to snatch the three points in the final minute of stoppage time.

Both Akinola and Josh Walker were largely anonymous throughout the game, failing to make much impression on the Fylde back four but Akinola was in the right place at the right time to make it four goals in two games. Alongside Taylor, Wes Fonguck put in another good shift whilst both Harry Taylor and Elliott Johnson looked pretty assured alongside Callum Reynolds as emergency centre halves.

Despite the lack of wins over the past eight weeks, the Bees are still just four points off the play-off places and with back to back wins for the first time since September, there is a little bit more optimism around and with a week’s break from league action as the FA Trophy starts this coming weekend Barnet will head to Maidenhead on 21st December in good spirits.

There is the alarming issue of what can only be described as awful attendance figures over the past two home games, sub 1000 crowds need to be addressed sooner rather than later and the club must come up with some better ideas to get bums on seats before The Hive becomes a permanent two sided ground with the lack of support.

You can also hear my podcast debut on Beespod below:

Rebels causing a stir

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Those who read this blog regularly and follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know it’s doing rather well. I count myself as fortunate to be able to interview two National League managers this season with follow ups due to happen throughout and two more at least on my list.

I still get amazed to see the atlas I can almost create from the countries it’s viewed in, it’s very humbling, I mean here we are on the 1st day of December and before I’ve written something this month, 24 people have visited the blog! So, there I was sitting there minding my own business this afternoon reading the Non-League Paper (standard Sunday) and something caught my eye, something that has crept up on me and I almost missed it.

Worthing FC have slowly and quietly moved into the BetVictor Isthmian Premier Division title race. I say slowly, but really it’s been gathering pace over the past two months and now the Rebels are into third place after the weekend games. Just three defeats in 18 league games tells it’s own story, consistency, one thing boss Adam Hinshelwood cried out for constantly last season seems to be on the table week in, week out this time around.

The Rebels last league defeat came nearly two months ago and they’re currently enjoying a nine match unbeaten run which has left them just two points behind Horsham and Folkestone Invicta, the latter however do have a game in hand. Behind them competition is harsh, both Hornchurch and Enfield Town have games in hand which means Hinshelwood’s side must keep winning.

In that run there aren’t a great deal of clean sheets, but Worthing do score at almost two goals per game so they are confident of outscoring their opponents. Goals are being shared around the team which is always a good sign of a side that are able to mount a title challenge, no reliance on one man to hit the target.

Both on-loan goalkeepers in Carl Rushworth and Roco Rees have both ably filled the gap left by Lucas Covolan, now plying his trade in the National League. The return of Lloyd Dawes and Reece Myles-Meekums have provided guile and pace to the front line to compliment Ollie Pearce and Callum Kealy.

The shrewd signings of Marvin Armstrong, Joe Tennant and Cameron Tutt have strengthened other areas of the squad and it appears that whoever Hinshelwood selects as a starting eleven there seems more of a belief and ability to push Worthing onto the next level.

Hinshelwood hasn’t and never is shy to include those from the youth set up should he feel they are ready, Fin Stevens and Dylan Jelley being just two examples recently stepping up to play.

With three of the top ten to play before the end of the year all at Woodside Road, the Rebels could be in a very strong position as we head towards 2020. As always support levels remain close to the 1000 mark through the turnstiles keeping the club as the best supported in the division although local rivals Horsham are also enjoying some good gates at their new stadium.

With so many things going on this year I’ve yet to watch the team in action this season, something I hope will change very soon if I can squeeze a game in, the advantage of a 3G pitch while the rest of the country plays catch up, Worthing are well up on games played. A town the size of Worthing deserves a club in the National League, something George Dowell and Hinshelwood are doing their best to achieve, watch this space……………………

 

Bees shine bright under The Hive lights

Barnet vs Ebbsfleet

Having now changed jobs, well given up working full time and now doing some part-time stuff while I wait for this writing to get off the ground, it means Tuesday nights under the lights is now a possibility for the first time this season.

This was only my 2nd visit to The Hive this season (3rd if you count the trip to meet up with Darren Currie back in July) but I think I picked the right time to make the 5 hour round trip again.

There’s no getting away from the fact the early season optimism I garnered from that July meeting and the subsequent good results that followed are now darkly confined to the archives and much forgotten about.  One defeat in the first ten games has been followed by just two wins in twelve games since, the kind of run that has managers looking over their shoulders and chairman with itchy trigger fingers waiting to pounce. There are many who believe Currie has run out of time  and when you see other managers and coaches getting relieved of their duties for similar results sequences you can’t disagree with them.

On the other side of it his squad is hamstrung by players who either aren’t the ones he wants at Barnet or are not good enough, either way it’s not helped the situation. The most bizarre thing about it all is despite the poor run of results Barnet before Tuesday night’s games were only two wins away from a play-off place which goes to show how open the division is this year, ‘missed opportunity’ is the phrase I’m reading most on Twitter currently, the thinking of a lot of teams because no one club is running away with the title this time around.

Having already lost at Ebbsfleet only a few weeks back, the Bees desperately needed a result not just for themselves but to relieve some of the pressure on Currie’s shoulders. Back to back 2-1 defeats hadn’t helped the cause, but a change in personnel and captain, Currie rolled the dice.

James Dunne was installed as the armband wearer and put in a performance that looked like a captain. People have their opinion of Callum Reynolds, my own is he’s not a bad player, but I like my captain to not take any prisoners and be at the forefront of everything, Dunne certainly looked the part last night.

Returning Simeon Akinola and Wes Fonguck to the starting line up made all the difference, Fonguck alongside Dunne and Jack Taylor didn’t give the Fleet midfield any breathing space all night whilst Akinola alongside Josh Walker gave the visitors back four more to think about than probably Barrow had over the course of the weekend game.

The state of the pitch doesn’t help with the way Currie wants the team to play, they passed the ball as requested but mixed it up with balls turning the defenders for Akinola and Walker to spin in behind.

What I wasn’t expecting was five Barnet goals, what I really wasn’t expecting was the way they were scored. Someone will have to do something special to beat Jack Taylor’s wonder strike from fully 25 yards out, hit with venom and arrowing over the keepers head and under the bar to give the Bees the lead.

Ebbsfleet’s equaliser was well worked into the net ten minutes later, but they stayed on level terms for just six minutes as Akinola curled a lovely shot past the outstretched hand of the keeper to give the Bees a deserved 2-1 lead at the break.

The visitors certainly started the brighter of the two sides after the interval, Barnet pinned back into their half for a good 15 minutes or so and to no surprise Fleet drew level. One minute later and Barnet back in front, Akinola springing the offside trap, although being in line with the Bees striker it was very marginal, keeping his head and calmly slotting past the on-rushing keeper.

From that point every time Barnet went forward they looked likely to score as the visitors looked to have been crushed having conceded so quickly after drawing level. Then came what can be described as just a fantastic piece of dribbling and skill from Walker dancing his way through several challenges down the line, into the box, keeping his cool and poking the ball into the net.

The boys in amber still weren’t done and a penalty awarded for handball was converted confidently by Akinola for his first senior hat-trick and put the icing on the cake of a polished performance. Granted, there are still some things to be ironed out, but if it is to be believed that the budget is full with no wiggle room, Currie is working with what he has, only time can tell if he can pull a miracle or two out of the bag and close that gap to the play-offs.

It’s a shame there were less than 1000 through the gate to witness a strong performance, I can understand why people wanted to stay away, maybe I make the most of it because I can’t attend as often as I would like and will take any game I can get to, but we don’t have a divine right to win every or any game, nor the division maybe there should be a radical look at ticket prices, but that’s for another blog or discussion elsewhere. Now there is a few days off before the action resumes at The Hive in front of the BT Sport cameras, a chance to show the non-league nation Tuesday night was no fluke and we can get back in this race, I’d still rather be here than a Chesterfield or Wrexham fan…………

Weather hampers club finances

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The relentless November rain is playing havoc up and down the country, in all honesty there isn’t much playing going on full stop! Hard grounds everywhere are not absorbing any of the constant rainfall and consequently waterlogging pitches on a regular basis are creating postponements on a huge scale.

My club Wick FC have so far managed to play one game out of four scheduled for this month and with even more rain forecast this week there’s a very good chance that it’ll be one game in five as we head into December. What that means for us is midweek football all the way through to Xmas and also means the earliest we can fit Saturday’s postponed game in is the first week of 2020! I know we’re not the only club in this situation, there are clubs already games behind us from cup runs and these weather related call off’s are going to start causing problems as 2020 hits in five weeks time.

While a postponement just means a game to fit in later on in the season, there are a far wider set of implications off the pitch which can set a club back weeks or even months. We are quite lucky in the fact we have a second Saturday team sharing our ground which means we’re making some money when the first team play away. But, the weather of course means their games are getting called off as well and it’s money that helps keep things ticking over on a weekly and monthly basis.

It might only be a few hundred quid each time, but those outside the inner workings of a grassroots football club wouldn’t know how crucial that extra cash can be. For a lot of clubs the past few weeks would have been hell because while the rain falls the bills don’t stop coming and if there is no cash reserve things can get a little tight unless there are some deep pockets within the club.

Those without the extra revenue will have more often than not made a loss on a day like this, programmes printed that might be used for the re-arranged game still incurs the cost there and then, stock for the tea bar that although can be frozen and used at a later date has still been paid for, but won’t see a profit for until a week or two later. These things might only appear small but get that happen twice in a month, the month before and/or after , and that can set back progress which can be hard to overcome and make it a real struggle for the remainder of the season.

Next month will hopefully be the time for us to get back on track with a full function book all the way up to New Years Eve, nothing is guaranteed however so it’s a little bit of fingers crossed in a way and hope for the best. If only we all had a Glenn Tamplin chequebook………………………..

History in the making or just the circus in town?

Romford-FC

Non-league football never fails to surprise you. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we all experienced the takeover of Billericay Town by Glenn Tamplin and now here we are again but this time insert Romford FC as the ‘lucky’ benefactors of Tamplin’s wealth.

Very easy to compare Tamplin to Marmite, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea and you can understand why. He’s brash, straight-talking and happy to splash the cash, not afraid to make changes but also not prepared to suffer those who don’t see things his way. Making an entrance is certainly his way of doing things as we saw with Billericay.

Bumper signings of ex Football League players and huge wages paid to those who dropped down the leagues, together with a huge mural painted on the wall of their New Lodge ground and the changing room rendition of ‘The World’s Greatest’ introduced us to the world according to Tamplin. The big story weekly was who was going to the next recruit to join the ‘revolution’ and propel ‘Ricay to the Football League. But while all this was happening on the pitch and blowing everyone else’s budget out of the water, Tamplin spent on the facilities at the same time, something a lot of owners forget when building a side to push up through the leagues.

The stadium at Billericay is now is very good shape, a legacy Tamplin left behind and one that has been promised to be built at Romford. But, what balanced that became known as ‘the circus’, the constant meddling in management and team affairs, then deciding he was better placed to do it all himself, then sack himself, then re-instate himself, all of this taking away from the good side of things people forget about.

It has been said ‘Ricay are as good as debt-free, slowly releasing the big earners to make it a sustainable business once again but with better facilities than they had when Tamplin arrived. In Jamie O’Hara they have a young manager learning the ropes but now able to do it without the pressure cooker environment Tamplin created.

Meanwhile, at Romford, Tamplin again decides management is his game but then when you’re the owner and pumping in your own cash, who can tell you what to do! It didn’t go to plan in his first game with 14 new players signed on before this weekend’s game and 3-2 home defeat in front of a crowd of 524 enjoying free entry courtesy of Tamplin against an average this season of 109.

There weren’t as many surprises in the new players announced as I expected but maybe in time that will follow. Away from the playing side, there is a chance for Tamplin to make Romford history, they currently are without their own ground and share with Brentwood Town. Bottom of the BetVictor Isthmian North Division with just five points, the only way of course is up unless current form continues and the Essex Senior League beckons instead. To build a brand new stadium and return the club to it’s home gives Tamplin the chance to do more than he could with Billericay, but in my opinion that’s where he should concentrate his efforts and leave the team to those who can get it out of trouble and rising up the table.

But we know from experience that’s unlikely to happen, Tamplin may well change but I wouldn’t be lumping my mortgage on it to happen! Whatever happens in Essex it’s a ride to jump on once again, there’s bound to be plenty of thrills and spills, just scream if you wanna go faster………….