It’s been a few weeks since I last penned something to blog, indeed the arrival of Harry Kewell and Dean Brennan at Barnet FC the last time I sat down and put a piece together.
Granted the world of non-league football is now in its ‘quieter’ period after the culmination of the National League play-offs but is there ever a quiet time for clubs even when a season has finished?
Of course there isn’t! Whilst this has been the strangest season in my lifetime just played out, playing games ended for most before the Xmas decorations had made it out of the box.
In that time no doubt clubs made decisions to make improvements to their surroundings, to upgrade areas around stadiums whilst some were actually lucky to complete a supplementary cup competition around April and May time.
Those involved behind the scenes of a club will know the groundwork begins almost as soon as the last ball is kicked on the pitch and it’s not long before attention turns to commercial activities, the hiring of function rooms and clubhouses to help turn over the summer months into profit.
This is still of course causing clubs problems currently with restrictions still in place nationally for what you can or can’t do unless you’re a government minister, loaded with cash or in bed with UEFA.
Then comes the paperwork and affiliation work to complete to ensure the club kicks off the new season on time and before you know it, the players are back for pre-season, signing on forms become the bane of your life although if I remember correctly just as I was leaving Wick a couple of years ago the process to move details online instead of a paper form was well underway.
Then it’s referee’s for those games, splitting costs, finding venues if the pitch work is not yet complete and ready for action, the very beginnings of these thankless tasks are the reason 22 players take to the pitch every August and beyond.
This year we have a slightly earlier start for clubs at Steps 5 and 6 on 31st July whilst the rest fall in line over the following three weeks with the expectation that the National League will not be finishing up in June this time around.
Whilst I’m not a fan of pre-season friendlies I am going to get to some, merely for catching up with fellow supporters, players and managers that I’ve hardly seen for a year, in some cases longer.
I was lucky enough to get three games watched in May, a double return to The Hive and a friendly at East Preston.
For many this coming season will be one they hope returns a sensible level to their mental health. I consider myself a strong person but at times this has tested even my resolve, granted Barnet FC have had a lot to test me with but we got through that!
It’s not the place to get all political despite the earlier notation but a reminder as a football fan we’re not far away from action once again and appreciation for those who make it happen for us all to enjoy, it might even be ‘coming home’ I hear……..
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………..
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………………..
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………
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………..
For the first time since March 2020 the chance to watch Barnet FC live and in the flesh was waiting. Granted I could have been there in December to watch on a Tuesday night but the club’s reluctance to allow general sale tickets until too late meant I had made other plans and stuck to them.
Whilst this was yet another dead rubber within this strange, weird and sometimes dull season this was all about the fans. People excited at a piece of normality returning and for me meeting up with some of the people I’ve grown to know via social media over the past 14 months (if I missed any of you last night I’ll be there again on Saturday, please come and say hello) and also those who I already knew but haven’t seen for months.
One change for Simon Bassey saw Antony Wordsworth back into the midfield after his four match ban with Michael Petrasso dropping to the bench, meaning five substitutes for the first time in a while.
The first half as might be expected was a very cagey non-descript affair, Maidenhead happy to soak up anything coming their way whilst Barnet eager to try and engineer something in front of the home fans.
The Bees should have had the lead after 18 minutes, Themis Kefalas with a free header sent the wrong side of the post when he should have scored. Ephron Mason-Clark had a couple of efforts blocked by the visitors defence and Adam Parkes was only called into action once to save from the Magpies front men, chances very much at a premium for both sides as they went in goal-less at the break.
The Bees noticeably turned up the tempo in the second half, Bassey wanting more from his troops and they were rewarded just before the hour mark when Harry Taylor found the net for the first time in 151 appearances in black and amber, striking home from inside the area across Magpies keeper James Holden to give the Bees the lead.
The other side of the hour mark saw the Bees increase their lead, Wordsworth slid in delightfully by the hard working Tomi Adeloye and finished with aplomb by the returning midfielder for a 2-0 lead and the points seemingly staying at The Hive.
The game should have been fully wrapped up in the final five minutes, Canadian Michael Petrasso on as a substitute for Wordsworth headed wide from just a few yards out when easier to score which really would have put the icing on the cake in front of the 562 home supporters, but the Bees saw out the game comfortably and await the visit of champions Sutton Utd at the weekend.
Despite Kings Lynn’s point against Solihull at the same time, Barnet can still climb off the bottom at the weekend, but a five goal swing is needed between themselves and The Linnets to make it happen.
An interesting stat that came to light after the game on Tuesday before Bassey arrived with Dave Anderson, Barnet had 13 points from 28 games and four clean sheets, since their arrival 15 points from 12 games and four clean sheets, that is not to be under-estimated the work the pair along with Gary Anderson have put in to such a short space of time with only two additions to the existing squad.
It’s also only the second time this season the Bees have failed to let a side score in both games against them, Weymouth being the other along with the Magpies.
Some superb performances came out of this game and the first to pick out is Ben Nugent. It’s very fair to say the centre-half has put in some of the worst performances seen in a Barnet shirt in recent memory, but he dealt brilliantly with everything, my only gripe is a left footed centre half on the right side of the two means a constant switch to his good foot, narrows the pitch down but credit to him for putting in that shift last night.
His centre half partner Ben Richards-Everton didn’t lose a header and will be a big player for us at both ends of the pitch next season, Lee Vaughan was constantly in good positions in either half of the pitch always providing an outlet.
Great to see Taylor finally get on the scoresheet, a long time coming but a strike worthy of his brother Jack’s right boot whilst Adeloye worked tirelessly up front with maybe not the best of service coming his way.
Man of the match was definitely Sam Skeffington, his energy, tackling, passing, constant probing is one that needs to be in black and amber next season it’s something that has lacked all year until his arrival in midfield and drives the team on week after week.
And as if like buses we get another game to watch this coming weekend as the champions roll into town at The Hive for a lunchtime Saturday kick off. A great season for Sutton Utd was crowned last weekend and this will be another good test for the home side despite nothing but pride riding on the game.
For me, a chance to see a couple of former Worthing FC players in Omar Bugiel and David Ajiboye in action once again and with some of my PNLP podcast boys joining me should be in for a decent day once again, whatever happens though, it’s great to be back…………
For the final time this season on Saturday afternoon I was sitting in front of a Barnet stream and I sincerely hope it’s the last I’m ever having to do that! A trip to title chasing Torquay in the final away game of the season wouldn’t have been the first choice of one of the last three games before the wasted season finally finished.
After two previous performances of huff and puff but no results, Simon Bassey changed things up again with Themis Kefalas back in the starting line-up with Courtney Baker-Richardson and Alex McQueen missing out completely whilst there was a surprise amongst the four named substitutes Josh Walker appearing for the first time this season.
With both sides playing in front of fans for the first time since December, and the home side needing to avoid defeat to keep their title hopes alive it was a surprise that the Bees started the better of the two sides, the Gulls looking extremely nervy from the kick off.
Tomi Adeloye was close to giving the Bees an early lead as Torquay started to grow into the game, Jake Andrews sending a free kick just wide of the post, then Adeloye setting up Michael Petrasso but the Canadian’s shot was deflected wide for a corner.
As it was the home side took the lead against the run of play on 13 minutes, Andrews settling the nerves slightly with a smart finish cutting in from the left hand side. Kefalas thought he had the equaliser just four minutes later only to see his header cleared off the line, moments before Adeloye had a sight of goal before a timely intervention.
Somehow the Gulls were two goals to the good after 23 minutes, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans benefitting from Ben Nugent beaten by a diagonal ball to round Adam Parkes leaving Barnet wondering why they were two goals behind and not in front. Not that this goal settled the nerves for the home side, they still looked capable of allowing Barnet back into the game.
Adeloye should have won himself a penalty after having his shirt tugged in the box, missed by both the referee and the short-sighted commentators who struggled with everything Barnet all afternoon. Kefalas should have halved the deficit just after the half hour sending a free header wide of the target.
The Bees didn’t have to wait long for their way back into the game, on 37 minutes Harry Taylor was needlessly fouled in the area and Petrasso stepped up to put the ball past ex-Worthing stopper Luca Covolan to reduce the arrears.
A superb save from Parkes kept the deficit at one on the stroke of half time, the home side going into the break in front but far from convincing.
Barnet again started strong and were level ten minutes into the half. A foul on Petrasso led to Sam Skeffington putting a free kick onto the head of Kefalas and this time the Greek youngster and made no mistake and the Bees had parity once again.
Both sides then opened up the game, Andrews putting a free kick the wrong side of Parkes’ post whilst Petrasso forced Covolan into a reflex save and chances continued to be traded, Taylor denied by Covolan whilst the Gulls missed a great chance at the far post which only needed a touch to end up in the back of the net.
The Bees did have to withstand a huge amount pressure in the final ten minutes but the home side couldn’t find a way through and in stoppage time the Bees had at least two very good chances to win the game but poor decision making in the final third meant the spoils were shared, Sutton Utd with the chance to win the title on Sunday afternoon before they visit The Hive on the final day next weekend.
This was probably the best performance of the season, some outstanding contributions along the way from Skeffington whose set pieces were a mark-up on McQueen, Ben Richards-Everton solid at the back whilst Kefalas deserved his goal and more, Petrasso, Mason-Clark and Beard providing good contributions.
Can’t let it pass without mentioning the commentators, now I appreciate they’re the home club etc, but having watched 27 consecutive Barnet streams bar Kings Lynn away these two were horrendous. Mistaking 6ft Nugent for 5ft something Lee Vaughan when taking throw in’s is something else, Skeffington’s corners they thought were taken by Petrasso, not difficult chaps when these guys have their own number on the back of their shirt, maybe a little more professionalism wouldn’t go amiss.
Two to go, both at The Hive including the visit of champions elect Sutton Utd next Saturday, Maidenhead to come on Tuesday evening. Tickets for both already in the wallet, that long five hour round trip I am actually looking forward to and seeing a lot of people who have been strangers for a year or so or Twitter buddies, Tuesday night under lights bring it on……………………
Here is the second and final part of my interview with former Barnet FC Head Coach Rossi Eames and in this part he talks about his time in charge of the first team, what went wrong and what could have gone better:
TK: The year we got promoted back into League Two in 2015 you became Under 21 Development Coach; did you still have a lot of those players under your tutelage?
RE: Yes, we took about nine of the Under 18 age group who were too old to play at that level but also Jack Taylor and Matty Stevens playing well above their age groups. A smaller group meant we could push more into them to get them ready and Martin played a few of them that first year, Harry Taylor, Fumi Shomotun scored against Hartlepool and then when we trained Martin would send some down to me and then from the academy some would step up, it was a real togetherness.
The loan moves were very beneficial in helping their development, we sent Harry to Hampton & Richmond and he did really well there which got him his first team chance.
TK: Martin then goes to Eastleigh, was it something you saw coming?
RE: No, I didn’t see it coming at all, in fact he rang me that morning. I think we were nine unbeaten at the time and although as you said some fans weren’t happy at the style of football winning games is what everyone wants whether as a player, manager or supporter.
Martin is a champion, he won promotions. The things I learnt off him were unbelievable, the way he sets up teams to get results, some methods are mad but there are methods to madness, just done in a simplistic way.
Going back to that morning, he rang, said I’m off to Eastleigh and did ask if I wanted to go with him. The money would have been great, around three times more than I was on at the time (below 20K), but I did say I’d think about it.
Then Henry and I got a call from Tony Kleanthous to take the team for the time being and what a whirlwind first ten days. We were out of the FA Cup so had time to prepare but so much went on, there was certainly much more to the job than I envisioned.
Sam Togwell wanted to join Martin at Eastleigh and we had already planned on him playing right back at the weekend as we were short, Gavin Hoyte was out with injury, so we had to adapt and threw in Jack Taylor to that position and he did alright to be fair.
But it was very much a ‘smash n grab’ at Yeovil and on the coach on the way home I was shattered thinking is this going to be how it is every week, my god!
Some great pro’s in that team though, Michael Nelson, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Curtis Weston but the one I would love to have worked with and didn’t due to his injury was Michael Gash, such a shame he didn’t get his contract renewed.
TK: A reasonable spell in charge with Henry, what changed for that partnership to not work out?
RE: I did hear rumours that there was lots of infighting between us but that was never the case really. There was a game I missed when I was ill, Colchester I think it was and the chairman I think had been mulling things over after the Mansfield defeat and I went back to work after the Colchester game and Henry had gone.
The chairman already had Kevin Nugent lined up to come in, that deal was done and he travelled up to watch us at Morecambe. My regret from that time was I didn’t enjoy it; we were too focussed on keeping that run going to get into the play-offs.
TK: Can you clear up the rumours around that time of Kenny Jackett coming in after Nugent kept the seat warm almost.
RE: We heard the rumours as well but we never knew what the chairman was planning to do, we wanted the clarity as well after five wins, five losses and a couple of draws. But he kept his cards very close to his chest on that one so I don’t know either way.
TK: Kevin Nugent then has the job, one win in twelve and it appears to all fall apart, can you put your finger on why?
RE: I don’t quite know; the players were playing for him working hard in training but late goals we conceded meant momentum didn’t follow and I think that was a lot of it. He didn’t change a lot of things, of course he wanted to embed his ideas and philosophy, but it just didn’t go his way.
The biggest thing I think is the number of players there from Christmas to the end of the season. We signed a few, but not many left the club but keeping them all happy was a problem as it always is. It was unfortunate it didn’t work out and I had the last four games again that season.
TK: Tony then offers you the main job, head coach for the first team. Did you think been here long enough it’s deserved and the chance might not happen again so I’ve got to take it?
RE: Pretty much yeh, I felt it was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and you have to take it, I’m sure if you asked any Barnet fan they would jump at the chance. I did ‘um’ and ‘ah’, thinking after the first spell is this me, you know.
TK: Did you also think looking at the squad and with the additions of Shaq, Craig Ross and later Dave Tarpey, I’ve got a play-off team here if not better?
RE: You look at the sum of the parts and you would think yes. You’ve got goals, you got defence and a good midfield, young players emerging but there were too many players in the building. I was told send me which ones you want to keep and I’ll move the others on, the latter didn’t really happen.
Some you miss out on too, James Alabi was in while I was away on holiday, then I get a call saying his medical wasn’t completed and the agent had walked out with him, gone. Others too, Marcus Bean, Hiram Boateng, and a couple of others I can’t remember. We did get Richard Brindley in through the door though, great right back.
Shaq initially didn’t hit the ground running but then scored against AFC Wimbledon in the Checkatrade Trophy and off he went. He’ll kick on again, he’s had a lot going on I know, but a great lad and I’m sure it will come good for him.
Tarps was done very late on deadline day. I had a call from his agent Lee Cook (the ex-Barnet winger) and I thought he was on his way to Coventry but seemed not so I said, ‘yeah I like him, proper goalscorer’. I spoke to the chairman who did the deal, agreed a fee, he came for his medical and we sent the paperwork at 10.59:45, 15 seconds to spare!
Confirmation didn’t arrive until we pulled up at Swindon on the Saturday lunchtime and we’d done our prep with Tarps up front with Shaq, that was close! So much was going on that night, Fuad Sale which didn’t get over the line nor Simeon Akinola to Lincoln.
Injuries though then began to cause a problem. Tarps only managed the game at Swindon, then Cambridge the following week and a challenge with Leon Legge saw him land awkwardly, his ACL goes seven minutes in and that’s it.
Going back to Luton first home game of the season we lose Elliott Johnson with an ACL as well, Harry Taylor off injured needing stitches, that’s both our wing backs. Brindley of course had his injury problem which meant we never saw him until the back end of the season.
The way we wanted to play that year with wingbacks meant it caused us a massive problem not having either of them available. John Akinde out from pre-season as well was a very big miss for us for a while, in hindsight did I bring him back too quickly? Yes I probably did. He wasn’t destined to play long at Carlisle but that wet pitch, his leg gave way and his hamstring went and put paid to the plan of him and Shaq together. We weren’t allowed loans at all and I do understand those reasons of not wanting to develop other club’s players, but some of that was down to the bloated squad size.
I can say now I did make mistakes, there are things I should have done better at the time in terms of players, players who weren’t playing or injured and in training but at the time you try and take a stance on it. There are always things going on behind the scenes that aren’t known about that you have to deal with, mentally I wasn’t in the right frame of mind myself.
I was going through quite a traumatic time away from the club, away from the game and it wasn’t pleasant. We drew at Yeovil and then got smashed at Colchester and at the time I felt that was it for me. I’d driven practically home to Bromley and then I get a text ‘come and see me in the office please’ so I had to drive all the way back to The Hive.
The chairman decided he wanted to change things up a bit, my head was pretty much gone anyway. With what was going on away from the game, the team not winning I was really struggling to see the wood from the trees so to speak. Was I out of my depth? Maybe I was, but I felt I had contributed a lot to the club.
Paul Tisdale said to me after the Exeter time of Jack Taylor, ‘that kid will win you and lose you games, but he’ll be your best player’. He’s done it himself with Ampadu and he who I won’t name who wins penalties now at Villa.
TK: In hindsight now looking back, would you have done anything differently like a change in formation against your beliefs or going to see Tony about what was going on away from the game?
RE: I spoke to him three or four weeks beforehand but no conversation was allowed, was dismissed straight away. But in hindsight yes, Dan (Sweeney) Alex (Nichols) and Ryan (Watson) should have been back in the team earlier. I trusted Jack (Taylor) and saw a future there. Fair play to Nelse (Michael Nelson) he said why don’t you play Dan at centre half, I should have done, he’s a good player, but there were other things like we needed to get on better.
You have to look at it and hold your hands up at times to making mistakes but there are some non-negotiables as a manager which you can’t go back upon which don’t happen on the pitch. I learnt so much from that time but it also took a long while for me to get back to me, it wasn’t how I wanted my nine years at the club to end.
TK: So then Mark McGhee comes in and you move to Head of Player Development?
RE: Well a title! Fair play to Mark he asked me a few times to come and work with him, but I was in such a dark, dark place is the best way to put it so the weekend after I took a few days away.
Gamedays I didn’t want to be around as it didn’t feel like it was me anymore and I needed to get away.
Most of the fans were brilliant throughout my time, I’ve no idea what actually happened after the Blackburn FA Cup with someone and my dad, that was supposed to stay within the club but then got portrayed in a Q&A later on, that wasn’t right to me.
I basically went back to the Academy side of things to see what players were coming through I had lost sight of that. James Callen was Under 12 at the time and has now come into the first team squad.
I didn’t really have a job spec as such so I took the Under 18’s with Lee Johnson till the end of the season, Antonis Vasiliou was in there and reminded me a lot of Luke Gambin, we had Rio Connell, Dwight Pascal, Benji Aghadiuno, Martyn Box, had a good little group there again.
I stayed well away from the first team when Graham (Westley) came in and then of course Martin (Allen) came back.
So first day back I’m in early as I knew he would be, he asks me to come and work with him, so I was honest and said no, too much going on and not really enjoying being around The Hive. Martin said that’s fine, just do the weekend game for me against Crewe, sit behind the dug out and give me the feedback.
We won 1-0 I think (2-1 win), and that week he knew my heart wasn’t in it. He was great about it and I still went for meetings with him as he wanted to know about the youngsters coming in etc.
The final game against Chesterfield I made arrangements with him to leave five minutes before the end of the game just in case there was any backlash from the fans towards me so I made sure I was out of the situation.
Then I was given my notice, went away for the summer and then got a call to say we need to sort out you staying on, which confused me given the first part, but I’d already had an interview lined up at Manchester City, got told though the club would want compensation for me if I went despite the fact I was on notice.
I didn’t get the job however and then had a call from a mate at Chelsea, so I went there to coach the Under 8’s and do a bit of scouting for them.
I look back now and a lot of good memories replaced more by the ones from the end, but I appreciate the support I did get and the staff and players I worked with.
TK: Are you surprised to see the club where it is now or do you think it’s been a never ending spiral?
RE: No I’m not. I think it’s been going downwards since Martin left for Eastleigh. We went through four managers that season, then another four when we got relegated and now four is it this season? No consistency, that’s what you need to be successful and progressive. At the end of the day though it’s the chairman’s football club and his money and in theory he can do what he wants.
He does have some good ideas but you need to stick with them. I haven’t really taken too much notice of this season, a covid year for everyone and tough for every club without fans inside watching them.
Going back to Underhill times, the Tuesday nights under lights were fantastic. I can go back to Edgar’s (Davids) debut, the place was bouncing. Another one was when Martin first came back and we drew 2-2 with Chesterfield, that bounce again.
The business model for The Hive is correct, it just lacks that soul that Underhill had. Underhill was nostalgic and reminded me of growing up as a kid watching Chesham Utd, but with The Hive being so open it takes away a lot of the acoustics which doesn’t help, but it needs to become somewhere, find it’s place.
My thanks to Rossi for his time, there are a lot of stories on the audio but converting all of it into blog’s would have taken about four pieces instead of two so the fantastic Beespod will be hosting the full two hour audio over the next week or so.
Tuesday night the 25 game streak of streaming Barnet games was over as I made my way to East Preston to actually watch a live game for the first time since mid-December.
Well, it was until a waterlogged pitch put paid to the Bees game at Solihull Moors and then hastily re-arranged for Wednesday evening with a 6pm ko which meant game 26 then!
Simon Bassey made two changes from Saturday’s defeat at Eastleigh with Michael Petrasso and Courtney Baker-Richardson coming into the team, Themis Kefalas missing out completely and Alex McQueen dropping down to the bench which for the second game running contained just four players, let’s not get started on around 15 furloughed players.
Lining up in a 4-4-2 formation meant more attacking intent and a more open game than some we’ve been used to this season. Both sides were attempting to play with the ball on the ground despite some blustery conditions, but pretty much only half chances were materialising for both teams.
The Bees were wasteful all game through with their set pieces and the usually reliable Lee Vaughan struggled to find his range when crossing into the box despite at least two targets to aim for.
An early booking for the Bees skipper left Vaughan walking a tightrope for just over 80 minutes of the game and at times the Moors stuck lively winger Alex Addai out to his side of the pitch to tempt the experienced full back into another bookable challenge but the full back wasn’t buying it.
Moors certainly had the best of the possession whilst as seems the norm Ephron Mason-Clark provided the best outlet for Barnet to get going with some strong and at times mazy runs but little end product into the box.
Two big chances arrived just before the half time whistle, one for either side. Addai’s strong run past Sam Beard saw his fierce shot cannon off the outside of Adam Parkes’ left hand post whilst at the other end Baker-Richardson looked clean through moments later only to be denied by keeper Ryan Boot, appeals for a penalty declined as the striker went down at the point of shooting, no replay though to see if it was the case and the sides went in goal-less at the break.
A similar sort of pattern was to follow for the second half, but Bassey’s half time talk was out the window within five minutes of the restart, James Ball firing home past Parkes to give the home side the lead.
Petrasso had a good chance just before the hour mark but didn’t wrap his foot round the ball enough and his effort sailed past the post. The same player was closest to finding an equaliser with 20 minutes to go, a header back across goal from Ben Richards-Everton found the Canadian but couldn’t make a good enough contact and the flag went up against him for offside.
The last nine minutes were a blur, or more a complete black out as for some bizarre reason Solihull decided the stream was going to finish at 7.45 for a 6pm kick off, but there we go, apparently I didn’t miss very much so they tweeted to me afterwards!
Slightly disappointing from a Bees point of view as I felt either side could have picked up the three points, game certainly lacked quality throughout and a very end of season dead rubber feel about it.
As Bassey said afterwards, you couldn’t fault the efforts of the players at all but another loss goes into the column. Richards-Everton put in one of his best performances so far, tempered by an off-colour Vaughan, the latter having been very consistent so far this season.
Mason-Clark once again was given license to be the player he is, to run and cause havoc but the service into both Baker-Richardson and Tomi Adeloye wasn’t at its best.
Onto Torquay this weekend for game 27 and hopefully the final one in front of a screen, tickets booked for both home games next week against Maidenhead and Sutton Utd, interesting to see the reaction towards the players and indeed the chairman for comments made earlier this year, no welcome back offer though, football without fans is what remember………….
Football. Fresh air. Fans. Tuesday night up and down the country was the moment non-league supporters had been waiting for since mid-December, a return to the stands and terraces that was long overdue.
However, most clubs have finished or didn’t even begin to play and a lot of fans will be eagerly anticipating pre-season friendlies which will begin in around four or five weeks’ time for Step 5 and 6 clubs.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything to significantly blog about other than the National League and the sorry state of Barnet’s season. So the announcement of one of my local sides, East Preston, to host a friendly against Pitching In Isthmian Premier Division Worthing was always going to get me into the ground.
It was the first time the PNLP (Premier Non-League Podcast) boys minus the northern based Chris May were out together at a game, a project I’m involved in with five other guys, 15 episodes in so far which isn’t bad considering we’ve had a real lack of football to talk about in months, available across all podcast platforms twice a month.
Regular readers will know I also write a piece for the EP programme, a different one for each home game and unique to them as I try and build a career. They were also my focus club last season when Terry Dodd became manager, an idea given to me by someone else so duly done. Terry obviously then left, Chris Horner took over only to be replaced by Under 23 duo Mike McCaffrey and Lee Thompson who were in situ when football ceased in November and took charge of the side for the recent Supplementary Shield games.
Since then McCaffrey left the club, Thompson was relieved of his duties in the past two weeks and chairman Terry Doyle installed ex Arundel boss Simon Hull as the new man in charge days after his release from the club up the river, McCaffrey has since returned to take the Under 23’s for next season.
With a new man in charge this was always going to be a bit of a scratch side for a one off as far as EP were concerned and with a side full of quality as the Rebels possess and some promising youngsters on the bench it was a good test for the home side.
It was no surprise to anyone to see Worthing dominate possession and whilst they were creating chances, the EP defence were just about equal to everything and it took an Ollie Pearce strike on 22 minutes to open the scoring.
Joel Colbran and Ricky Aguiar added further goals, the latter’s effort drilled from the edge of the box to give the visitors a commanding 3-0 half time lead.
The fourth goal arrived courtesy of Shaq Gwengue after a fine move and a smart finish, Rebels manager Adam Hinshelwood then making a raft of substitutions with most of the senior players making way.
EP’s best chance of the game came from a free kick just outside the box, the ball clipping the top of the Worthing crossbar on it’s way over and into the trees behind the goal.
As EP legs naturally tired as the game wore on Worthing added another three goals to the scoreline to give it a flattering look of 7-0 by the final whistle but a good workout for both sets of players.
On Wednesday morning I caught up with both Simon and Adam and both agreed having fans back in to watch was the biggest part of this game.
‘Fantastic to see fans back in the ground’ remarked Hull, ‘it gives everyone a lift and there was a great buzz around the Lashmar last night.’
‘Last night was an opportunity for us to have a look and learn about our youngsters. As yet we’ve been unable to have any training sessions with them but a great test against Adam’s quality outfit.’
‘That’s it for us now this season although we are planning pre-season training and that will start very early. Plenty to do but the boys are keen and the coaching staff are very willing.’
Hinshelwood was also very pleased to have supporters back, ‘it was great to play with fans in attendance again, it felt like a bit of normality for all of us.’
‘It’s been way too long to have that feeling, a simple cheer after a goal goes in, makes the game seem so much better and real.’
‘It’s been so important for us I believe to get together as a group for two reasons, firstly it would have been a long time if we had waited just for pre-season to get some match practise into the legs and I believe this would heighten the risk of injury.’
‘Secondly, for the players and everyone connected to have that engagement with the group again for mental health reasons and general well being it’s been massive for us all.’
And I think fans can identify with the mental health part, so many people I’ve spoken to over the months wanting a bit of normality, indeed seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd of 250 people shows how much it was wanted.
Great to be out with mates just enjoying the game, hopefully The Hive beckons for me for the next week to finish off the season then the hard work starts again trying to get this writing career off the ground, if any clubs are interested in what I can do for them you’ve only got to ask East Preston, Langney Wanderers or Met Police……………….