Currie: My love and enthusiasm for football is still beaming

Earlier this week I caught up with ex-Barnet FC boss Darren Currie to find out what he’s been up to since leaving The Hive before this season began:

TK: What’s been the life of Darren Currie since leaving Barnet at the end of the summer?

DC: It’s been very different not being around football as it’s been in my life from a child, Saturdays have not quite been the same, I’ve either been glued to the vidiprinter or walking round Sainsburys with my wife.

In a normal situation without the pandemic I would be at games 2 or 3 nights a week and visiting training grounds but that’s not a possibility, however my love and enthusiasm for football is still beaming and I can’t wait for another opportunity.

TK: Can’t get in the way of your housework! Have you kept in touch with other managers and coaches just to keep involved and in touch with the game?

DC: Of course the housework is now my job but I’ve always been the house proud type!

Yes, I’ve had lots of conversations with many people across the game at all levels, I’ve always found football debate interesting because everyone has an opinion and you can always learn something from someone, there is always something that can provoke you to think.

TK: You’ve been getting out to watch a lot of games like most of us until the beginning of this month, has it given you some food for thought on how Steps 3-6 approach the game?

DC: I’ve watched a few games, some good, some not so good but that’s football! From a recruitment point of view there are gems at all levels so always worth a watch.

There is no right or wrong way of playing, everyone does it how they see the game and their own personal values, there’s been some different styles for sure.

TK: Does it bring home the frustration a little more at times watching from behind the barrier rather than directing from the dugout?

DC: Yes and no. I’m a fan like everyone else so I do understand, it depends whats being asked of the players, fans may think someone is not doing well but the coach believes he’s doing his job that’s been asked of him that benefits the team or a team-mate but yes I can understand that it can frustrate.

TK: Have you felt quite proud that a majority of last season’s Barnet team have gone on to bigger things, a mention of course for Jack Taylor and his full Republic of Ireland call up.

DC: Yes, very proud of them all to be honest, we had a great atmosphere in the changing room last season and although I’m no longer their manager I have kept in contact with them all and speak regularly.

Part of my management style is to create relationships and invest in the person as well as the player so I will always look out for them.

JT is not surprising anyone, he’s a terrific player whose football journey will just get better and better, and many coaches can take credit for his development as can myself and Junior (Lewis) but the main credit goes to Jack himself for his attitude and drive to keep improving.

He’s on the big stage now so everyone connected to the Bees will be watching on proudly.

TK: Would you expect Harry to follow his brother up the footballing ladder in the next season or two? And how different a player is Harry to Jack?

DC: I do expect Harry to climb the ladder as well most definitely. Jack is the eye catcher with goals, assists and driving runs whereas Harry is the consistent versatile reliable player that will go a little unnoticed by some on occasion but as a manager or a coach he’s a brilliant player to have.

Both are great boys in the changing room and it was a pleasure to work with them.

TK: Have you watched anything of Barnet this season or followed things from afar?

DC: Followed from afar mostly but I watched the cup game against Burton Albion which they deserved to win, great effort from the team with 10 men. When the gates open again I will definitely get back to The Hive to watch them play.

TK: That’s because you’re buying the beer! Are Junior or any of the other staff that worked under you back in the game or like yourself waiting for an opportunity?

DC: Everyone is waiting for another opening to come. Yes I will get the beers for sure!

TK: When you see your name linked to jobs around the country as teams haven’t started as well as they’d liked to have, as bad as it might sound are you willing a chairman or two to pull the trigger?

DC: It’s the unfortunate side to the game that someone will lose their job to allow someone else the chance. That will always be the case.

TK: How have you kept yourself busy so far in this second lockdown besides hoovering and bed making?

DC: House husband, school runs, running, dog walking and reading.

And all I want is football!

TK: 2 weeks and hopefully we are back to getting out to games again. Final one from me, are you hopeful that 2021 will bring the return of fans to all stadiums once again?

DC: It’s a must, it has to be. The game needs the fans, football is nowhere near the same without them so let’s hope we get stadiums open again as early as possible and as safely as we can.

Back to work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t to be, but it can bee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We go again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One step closer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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