Barnet FC. The gift that keeps on giving whilst appearing a laughing stock to the outside world and the inability to stop the revolving door to the manager’s office at The Hive.
Only last midweek was I blogging that Harry Kewell was already under pressure six games in and without a win kept off the bottom only by Dover Athletic on a minus points score.
Two games I believed he had to buy some breathing space for himself, his staff and his squad. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bromley at the weekend, another side who hadn’t started well, didn’t look at all promising and the lack of a post-match interview from Kewell despite his touchline ban for a sending off at Grimsby saw his assistant Paul Butler not pull any punches.
Talking to fellow Bees fans over the weekend and others I felt he had this weekend’s home game with Weymouth to save his job, even that might not have been enough and as sure as night follows day Barnet are looking for yet another manager/head coach before we’ve reached the end of September after news broke on Monday lunchtime that the club and Kewell had parted company.
At the very beginning of this structure appointment I wanted this to work. Not necessarily for Kewell but for what was put in place and for us fans to see that things can work properly at The Hive. Being a famous name with a good reputation in the game doesn’t always translate into a good sideline coach and as we saw with Tim Flowers last year it didn’t end well.
Kewell I felt was in last chance saloon in this country as a head coach, a poor record across Football League jobs, a final opportunity maybe to succeed and if not that was him done, that will remain to be seen over the next couple of years if it’s the case.
Having spoken to people in and around the game the dynamics didn’t appear to be working between Kewell and Dean Brennan, was that Tony Kleanthous name drawing from a hat and seeing if it works or fits together? The squad to me looks a mismatch of players wanted by both, signed half and half. I could be miles out there but that’s how it looks from the outside.
To work out that regardless of the result this coming Saturday that Peter Beadle’s side would have accumulated more points than Kewell’s tells you all you need to know because six different managers before Simon Bassey tried to get a tune out of those players and thirteen games restored a little bit of pride, since demolished once again.
Just to think how many players and managers have been through those doors at The Hive since Darren Currie and Junior Lewis left the club last August makes my brain hurt. Tony’s right we do have a reputation in the game, it’s an embarrassing one at best and at the moment we’re not exactly pulling up trees to change that around are we?
The amount of money that has been wasted paying off managers and coaching staff as well in that short space of time, if there were shareholders in the club, surely they would be wincing at the balance sheet every few months, its crazy to think we must be paying off now no less than three managers and numerous others.
So what now? Well in my opinion leave Brennan to get on with appointing someone he can work with, someone who knows the division. That might limit a few being that Brennan was a National League manager in his own right just a season ago, will some see it as him lurking and waiting for the job himself?
The biggest answer would be for Kleanthous to eat humble pie and get Currie back in, that’s what kickstarted this mess in the first place. Would he want to come back? Would he want to work under Brennan? Personally I don’t believe anything more than a 1% chance of it happening, I’m stoked if it does but I’ve got no money on that at all.
The second would be to eat the same humble pie and get Bassey back to build on what he started last season, again something I don’t see happening although it would be the dream team in place that was touted to be coming in last March.
My realistic appointment is Neil Smith. Yes I know him, yes I trust him. But I also know what a passionate footballing man he is who knows this level. You don’t spend ten years at one club by luck I can assure you. This next man HAS to know how to bring the fans onside, Smudger I know will do that and if he chucked in a cheeky assistant like Ian Hendon, well you might just take the heat off yourself Tony.
27 years of supporting the Bees has never been dull ever, but quite frankly the embarrassment tag could do with dropping itself. I was already heading to The Hive on Saturday afternoon before the new broke, no doubt there will be more to come over the next few days before the weekend, just no silly appointments please………………….
Every season when the fixtures come out there’s a list of ones I want to get to, be it Barnet, Worthing or random other clubs. Some are to meet up with mates who live further away, some are catching up with players and managers who’ve given their time for other blog pieces.
Chesterfield vs Barnet was on my list to do after the friendship struck up with Scott Loach during the ill-fated efforts of last season. We’ve kept in touch since and while it’s quite a trek from Littlehampton to the Technique Stadium on a Tuesday night I decided it was going to happen anyway!
Given the two sides respective starts to the season I definitely wasn’t expecting Barnet to come away with anything unless Loachy was going to have a mare and chuck a few in for us.
Fragile confidence inside a poor set of results so far meant it wouldn’t take much to knock the Bees over, games littered with red cards, goals conceded from needlessly given away free kicks and leads squandered so far.
The last time I saw these two sides play each other one was already relegated to the National League and other joined them 90 minutes later, neither has regained Football League membership since.
Straight from the off you could sense the Spireites were going to run at the Barnet back four and it really wasn’t a surprise when they opened the scoring just six minutes in, Kabongo Tshimanga tapping in at the far post after the ball found it’s way across the six yard box to the unmarked striker.
Now when you concede the next job is to keep it tight and get a foothold in the game, not so for the Bees. Just a minute or two later, Ben Richards-Everton was caught the wrong side of Stefan Payne and tripped the striker in the box, a yellow card for his troubles and Tshimanga giving Sam Sargeant no chance from the penalty spot for his and Chesterfield’s second.
The striker signed late on from Boreham Wood should have completed his hat-trick by the time ten minutes were on the clock, but flicked Calvin Miller’s cross over the bar.
The Bees first effort on target came five minutes later through the bright Kian Flanagan but straight down the throat of Loach. Worse again should have come Barnet’s way straight after, a lazy back pass didn’t reach Sargeant, Sadou Khan nipped in and rounded the keeper before shooting into the side netting instead of the open goal.
Pressure was only coming from the Spireites, the only outlet ball for the Bees was to David Sesay down the right flank who looked a little on a one man crusade to get the visitors back into the game.
Sargeant was again called into action ten minutes before half time with a superb double save from Tshimanga and Miller, a combination of the keeper’s smart stops and poor finishing preventing the home side racking up a cricket score by half time.
Then, out of nowhere came a mad five minutes before the half time whistle went. Serhat Tasdemir who hadn’t offered too much so far from the left hand side cut inside and saw his shot deflected in the net wrong footing Loach on the way in dead on 45 minutes.
Whilst unexpected it was a welcome way back into the game and three minutes into first half stoppage time the scoreline was undeservedly level. Sam Granville shot from distance and the deflection on this one also took the ball past Loach and into the net to give the Bees a 2-2 scoreline going into the break, something that wasn’t being contemplated amongst the 49 travelling Barnet faithful.
With an unexpected turn in the match you would have expected the Bees to have been told to come out and take the game to the hosts given the momentum was with them at the end of the half, but they failed to do so.
The home side went back in front just after the hour mark, Joe Widdowson giving away another sloppy penalty from the Barnet perspective and Tshimanga completed his hat-trick from the spot. The likelihood was coming that the home side would be the ones to notch more goals and Payne did have the ball in the net 17 minutes from time but ruled out for offside.
But it didn’t take long for the Spireites to score again, a needless free kick conceded outside the penalty area to Sargeant’s left and Calvin Gunning’s effort deflected off the wall and past the keeper to put the seal on another three points for the home side, substitute Ephron Mason-Clark forcing Loach into a save three minutes from time in what was the only on target effort for the visitors in the second half.
The ease in which the home side tore into the visitors defence proved the Bees back line is as porous as any time last season prior to the arrival of Simon Bassey in March, a clean sheet doesn’t seem to be in Harry Kewell’s armour but the midfield is not strong enough to keep creating enough chances to outscore teams.
The 4-4-2 set up in my opinion was wrong given the defensive frailties and to then take off the second striker after going 3-2 behind is slightly baffling. The other substitutions didn’t make a lot of sense either, can only think those coming off were either carrying small knocks or not match fit enough to do the full ninety.
Sesay did look good before running out of steam, Flanagan suffering from not having an experienced head alongside him, Sam Granville really not effective enough to make a difference. Great to catch up with Loachy too although we do speak occasionally on the phone as well, nice touch to clap and acknowledge the Bees fans before heading off to celebrate another win.
Kewell is running out of time to deliver for Barnet, granted the opening set of fixtures weren’t the kindest but that aren’t very many fixtures on the calendar you would expect to bank on three points, it needs to be worked on and delivered.
You can’t hide behind injuries forever, all teams suffer them and there is a squad of players to pick from, most of which are new this year.
Whilst reading currently a book on AFC Wimbledon at the moment, it of course documents well Bassey’s 17 years there and have just gotten to a point where Bass had his first caretaker role, remarking how simple he made things, went back to basics and got the players to believe in themselves again, sounds very similar to the 13 game spell at the end of last season’s disaster, I can’t help but think Tony Kleanthous made a huge, massive mistake in not tying that man to the club to continue what he started, time will tell, more likely sooner rather than later…….
Earlier this week the Beespod chaps of which I’ve been a guest of a couple of times managed to get the one everyone wanted and has been waiting for, the Barnet FC chairman Tony Kleanthous in the first of a two part interview.
Below, fellow Bees fan Jim Kavanagh takes us through this first part of the interview giving his reaction to answers provided by Tony and what he hoped would be asked in part 2 (NB this was written prior to the second part being released):
It’s really hard to respond to Part 1 of the Beespod interview with TK, without first listening to Part 2, but the fact that it’s happening at all fills me with enormous optimism. I first have to declare my undying love for Keith Doe as a result of his ‘death threat’ over the Westley debacle; but I must also applaud TK for what is a pretty emphatic owning of most/all of our problems since we were relegated. When he speaks so passionately and honestly, (and I have absolutely no reason to believe he is being anything other than honest), he really is engaging and the podcast was a great listen.
For much of the interview, Mem and Iain simply let TK ramble on, because there was no need to interrupt. It probably shouldn’t come as any surprise to us that he is so passionate about the club. I think that those who questioned his passion for the club upset him. It’s one thing to be critical of him and highlight the many mistakes that have been made, (and let’s not pretend that there aren’t many mistakes). It’s quite another to say that he doesn’t care and that the decisions were made with anything but the best intentions at heart. I certainly didn’t believe that even before the 1st half of the interview was released and I think that it’s even harder to hold that opinion after listening.
There is a section of the interview that starts at 38:16 and for me is key. I think we should pay attention to it rather than flippantly skip over it as some throw-away comment because it’s really not. It’s key to everything.
TK: “The problem was this. It’s very simply this. It’s me alright. It’s me; and it’s me because of this. When we got relegated….. I can’t tell you…. That season broke my heart. bla bla bla bla bla. From that day, I feel like I disengaged.“
That right there in a nutshell is the whole shebang. He talks us through what happened, (and why it happened), and why he made some of the rubbish decisions he made, (which are still rubbish don’t get me wrong), but don’t seem quite so awful when you put yourself in his shoes at that time, (with the exception of the Westley decision of course because there is just no way he should ever have agreed to that and he knows it now and knew it then). It was a symptom of the malaise that was affecting TK’s decision-making then and it took the failure of both Beadle and then Flowers, (and the risk of relegation to Conference South), to snap him out of it.
Within part of the conversation that I have missed out above, is the decision-making process/thinking behind the appalling Westley appointment, (which was actually made by Mark McGhee). I would also add that the only reason we were looking for a new manager at this point was because of the disgusting personal abuse aimed at Rossi Eames, that made him feel that he didn’t want to continue in the role. We did that. Not you or me personally, but one of us. A Barnet fan….. “We.”….
Taking into account that we have just come to the end of a 3 day blackout period on social media, aimed at highlighting and discouraging online personal abuse of any kind, it needs to be acknowledged that this was the reason for Rossi’s leaving; and without that I don’t believe that we would have had to go through the Westley shambles that followed. Our actions have consequences and this more than anything proves that. I am confident that the squad would have responded better to Rossi than they did to McGhee or Westley, and that our form would have turned once we started to get players back, (as happened when Mad Dog returned). TK didn’t force Rossi out. He wasn’t sacked. We did that……. I often think back to that now. It’s not a nice feeling. We can blame TK all we want, but the thing that caused us to go down, (in my opinion the recruitment of Rossi’s replacement), was down to us. Let that just sink in for a moment before reading on.
I know you are all used to reading Trev’s scribblings; and I’m sure he does a far superior job of getting his thoughts into print than I, but I’m not here to blow smoke up TK or anyone else for that matter. Things generally aren’t black and white and while I personally feel quite strongly about some of this, everyone who reads this might see this a different way, and that’s fine.
There is nuance within everything and even more so when it is something that we are passionate about. Little things matter. I mean they really matter, and with that in mind we need to look forward to Part 2 of the Beespod interview and the questions that are surely coming with regards to the furloughing of contracted players, who are then replaced by players new to the club. When it happened to some of the fringe players, we tried to explain it away, (despite being critical of other clubs who had already done the same). “Oh it was just the fringe players so it’s fine“. It wasn’t fine. It wasn’t fine at all. Then it was the club captain Dunne who had just been shown a straight red against Bromley. “Oh Dunny deserved it. It was a ridiculous thing to do. He should know better and we have an awful disciplinary record so it will send a message out to the rest of the squad,” (except that when loan players were sent off they were not treated in the same way and the only reasoning I can see behind it is that it was because we weren’t liable for their wages like we were with the contracted Dunne.
Then there was the furloughing of Scott Loach. He was injured and was soon furloughed, seemingly to save some cash. Teenager Aymen Azaze was highly thought of and would deputise in goal and James Callan, (another bright prospect), would sit on the bench. Then the unthinkable happened against high-flying Sutton Utd. Just before HT, Azaze suffered a serious facial injury that saw him hospitalised and forced 16 year old Callan into the fray. This was fine as a substitute for the Sutton game, (where it should be said he was unlucky not to keep a cleans sheet), but Bassey surely wouldn’t allow him to start the remaining games without a backup keeper on the bench. The answer was seemingly obvious. Loach was fit, (not a surprise considering him being a consummate professional), so get him back in and Callan would revert to the bench and all would be well with the world(ish).
No. That’s too simple for TK. Instead, he continued to keep Loach on furlough and brought in a loan keeper, (on Graham Stack’s recommendation), in what seems to many as penny-pinching at best and morally bankrupt at worst. I’m desperate to hear Mem and Iain ask TK about this. (There is no way they got Mem out of the room without him asking this question without an armed response unit being called), but I also want to hear TK defend such things as the treatment of Mauro over the years and the decision to release Elliot Johnson during the close season despite the fact that we had an option to trigger another year on his contract. (I would also like the treatment of Tarps post-injury to be brought up, but perhaps to discuss something as sensitive as that in the 1st of these interviews is expecting a little much). Of all the positions at the club, the area we have struggled with most is left back. The arrival of Beard, (only on loan which is a real shame in my opinion), only clouded the issue until the Daggers game, where we were completely outplayed from start to finish by a side where EJ played on the left of a 3 at the back and Mauro played in front of him as left wing-back. Mauro’s energy shone through for all to see and EJ just looked cool, calm and collected at all times. They are exactly what we were missing yet we discarded them in a manner that unfortunately fits in only too well with the way that we have treated our players in recent years and seemed completely at odds with the service they had given us. They are decisions that don’t make sense to me. Mauro went and played for Wingate and Finchley rather than sign a new contract with us. Who is responsible for him feeling that way?
It’s all well and good TK citing that our budget is smaller than other clubs looking to recruit the same players, (actually he was comparing us to Football League clubs rather than National League clubs), but I want to hear some sort of acknowledgement, that the way we have treated our players, (particularly our injured players at times), has an impact on our reputation as an employer within football (and it seemingly starts with TK), meaning that when players have a choice between ourselves and another similar sized club, they want more money to join us because of the “un-professional” way that we are known to act in many situations. I should also point out here that TK touched on this in Part 1 of the interview in his comment about the club’s recent staff recruitment and in particular the appointment of Ricky Bartlett to resolve the “logistics” issues which TK said, “made him cry“. These are just very small examples of a bigger problem at the club, (no food provided before/after training is something that’s really basic but links in here), but maybe this is something that has been driven by others and TK really intends a root and branch overhaul?
Something else that struck me, is the words that TK used to describe Bassey. He was very much recruited as a Coach rather than a Manager, and anyone who listened to the brilliant recent Downhill Second Half interview with Paul Fairclough, (within which he admitted that it was he who appointed Mark Robson), knows only too well that there is an enormous difference between a Coach and a Manager. I for one quite like the idea of recruitment being done by the club rather than the Manager. It’s how bigger clubs operate and I think we need to aim to be better than we are rather than cutting our cloth to match those that we find ourselves competing with at this lower, less professional level.
I guess we will just have to wait and see. Not just for Part 2 of the interview, but also if TK delivers on what he has spoken about. For me though, communication like this is an enormous step in the right direction. With that in mind, while enormous credit must go to both Iain and Mem for the groundwork in preparing the way for this Interview, (that seemed impossible only weeks ago), credit should also be given to Adam Rowe who must have been hugely influential in getting both parties sat down together. Thank you and well done to all.