Brennan gets the Bees off the mark

I’m sure being a Barnet fan you achieve more highs and lows in one season than some fans can find in a lifetime, granted it’s more lows than highs to be honest, one thing you can’t deny is there is hardly ever a dull moment!

It was about two weeks ago I blogged the pressure was on Harry Kewell, one more loss and almost a week later he was gone. Not seen really as a surprise across the footballing world although there were a few of us who expected the ride to last a little bit longer.

I was expecting the Australian to be given two games, Bromley away and Weymouth at home. The latter coincided with the only time bar Bank Holiday Monday in August when a trip to The Hive was possible, so armed with Nick Patel that was to be the game before Kewell was out the door.

Enter stage left, Dean Brennan Head of Football. Many believe it’s now set up for the Irishman to take the main job and potentially with it the end of the structure so sought after within around six months of its inception.

Kewell seemed at times stuck in his own little bubble, his interviews pre and post-match were bland, full of nothing and details of injuries kept hidden in his back pocket.

Brennan on the other hand straight off on Friday, boom we knew who hadn’t a chance of making the game and how long they’re out for, not sure what Kewell was trying to achieve but didn’t endear himself with the Bees faithful.

Kept off the bottom only by Dover’s minus points, there is only one way to go. Reports of training and the whole week feeling like a cloud had been lifted over the Harrow complex tells you the story of maybe the past seven games, the fact that despite whatever was going to happen at The Hive on Saturday Peter Beadle’s side of last year had more points at this stage something was badly lacking.

Brennan’s decision to go with Josh Payne as a defensive midfielder at the expense of a second striker was a good choice, leaking goals for fun and if you can’t outscore the opposition then of course you must shore up your own backline.

Having watched Weymouth the week before against Dover, I was expecting the visitors to control a lot of the possession and they didn’t disappoint. Sam Shields was a constant menace down the Bees right hand side and despite getting balls into the box the Barnet centre halves of Ben Richards-Everton and skipper Harry Taylor dealt with most backed up by keeper Sam Sargeant.

Despite only playing with the one striker in Mason Bloomfield, the balls up to him were sticking and being quite a release from defensive pressure, for a big guy he has a very good touch and get’s his body in-between ball and the defender.

It was clear to see the Bees had done some work on set piece delivery during the week, corners into the box from Payne were causing the visitors a few issues, a rehearsed move of finding Richards-Everton at the back post nearly produced a goal from his header back across, Ephron Mason-Clark eventually shooting over.

It was from a corner the Bees took the lead just after the half hour mark, Payne’s delivery found Mitch Brundle unmarked in the box and his free header gave Ross Fitzsimons no chance in the Terras goal.

A set piece again nearly brought a second goal for the home side in first half stoppage time, Payne hitting the post with Fitzsimons beaten all ends up, Barnet heading into the break in front, hugely against the wall in possession stats.

Both Brundle and Mason-Clark had early chances to increase Barnet’s lead but Fitzsimons was equal to the efforts and from there on both sides traded chances without too much testing of either keeper.

The visitors found an equaliser 20 minutes from time, Shields’ cross into the box wasn’t dealt with and found it’s way to Brandon Goodship to touch past Sargeant, a taste of Barnet’s character to come for the remainder of the game.

Neither side seemed content to settle for a draw, the visitors though once again controlling possession mostly but changes for the Bees proved to be influential.

Daniel Powell on for David Sesay stole the ball from the dithering defender, powered towards the penalty area and slid the ball to fellow substitute Adam Marriott who calmly drew Fitzsimons out of his goal, and slotted home for the Bees.

Five minutes from time the home side made sure the three points were staying with them, Sam Beard’s high hanging cross was headed towards goal by Richards-Everton, crashed against the crossbar and over the line, the assistant referee signalling a goal as Marriott made sure the ball ended up in the back of the net, the defender with the goal however to give the Bees their first win of the season and a great start under Brennan.

Having heard about the different atmosphere around the training ground during the week as mentioned, the result possibly wasn’t a surprise and generally the new manager bounce as well, however had Weymouth scored first then we would have needed to see some resolve appear from the men in black and amber.

Credit to Brennan for the right substitutions at the right time, that won the Bees the game effectively. Taylor and Richards-Everton looked better as a central defensive partnership than anything else so far this year, Bloomfield as impressive leading the line as he was against Chesterfield a couple of weeks ago.

The win however means nothing if it’s not backed up with another home game this coming weekend and followed up by two sides in and around us, much work still to be done and at least we’re finally off the mark……..

Bees search again after Kewell departure

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………………….

Pressure starting to mount on Kewell and winless Bees

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…….

Running the rule over Kewell’s signings

As many regular readers will know Barnet FC had a torrid season last time out, torrid for its supporters and some thoughts along my lines of a gamble from the chairman which came off by the skin of his teeth, however you look at it it’s done and in the history books.

Exactly a year ago today as I write this I was heading to The Hive to watch the Bees in the play-offs albeit on TV’s surround by fellow Barnet fans, but my first viewing since mid-March of the black and amber.

An end of season clear out has made for a summer of signings under new head coach Harry Kewell and head of football Dean Brennan and with a lot more quality than we saw arrive under Peter Beadle. Last year we were found lacking, but it appears this time around there is to be no mistake from Tony Kleanthous with the club in need of a big re-build on and off the pitch.

Underneath and around the top two appointments it was vital to see some continuity in Gary Anderson, Dave Anderson and physio Ollie Galloway all re-signing for the new season.

With around only 6-7 contracted players still in the building there has been massive scope for making this a Kewell and Brennan squad for the future and so far we’ve seen some good names coming through the door and one or two with points to prove or potential to be untapped.

Before the signings began, it was good to see Wes Fonguck accepting a new offer and staying with the club after an ACL injury curtailed his season early last year. A player with potential to make his mark in the game, this could turn out to be the biggest year of his career.

The day after Josh Payne was the first one through the door, experience in both the EFL and National League and a loss for Eastleigh when he moved to Woking a couple of years ago. One same day, two more joined Payne at The Hive, a striker in Mason Bloomfield and one that Bees fans were desperately wanting left back Sam Beard.

Bloomfield doesn’t have the most prolific of career stats in front of goal, but at 24 can provide the height of a target man at 6’3 and be a real threat from set pieces, he will need to have his best return ever of goals to ensure the Bees finish high up the table.

Beard was one of the two ‘need to be made’ signings. Having impressed all around the club with his loan spell at the end of last season, Beard brings a good positional sense at full back and isn’t shy of a tackle, already a fans favourite and one that should continue to prosper.

A day later, four more arrived through the doors in the shape of Jake Askew, Kian Flanagan, Jordan Thomas, and Josh Doherty. Askew arrives from Wealdstone and will compete with Aymen Azaze for the number 1 jersey although there currently is no date for Azaze to return following the nasty injury he was on the receiving end of last season so expect another keeper to likely come in, possibly on a short term basis.

Flanagan arrives from Crystal Palace, highly rated by former Bees manager and player Gary Phillips, just 21 and again with potential to make a decent start to his career.

Thomas also comes from the Premier League, Norwich City his previous club and another youngster looking to make an impression in the professional game in the right back position.

Doherty played under Kewell at Crawley and can play up and down the left hand side, giving cover to Beard whilst also allowing the Irishman to ping the ball into the box and brings a wealth of EFL experience to the club.

Hot on the heels of those boys just a couple of days later were a couple of cracking signings.

First up was striker Adam Marriott, a goalscoring record second to none at Kings Lynn and finished up the season at play-off chasing Eastleigh. Certainly, a compliment to Broomfield as a striking pair as it currently stands, a signing there that means business in my opinion if he can replicate his form in Norfolk.

The Bees added to that with the capture of title winning defender Jamie Turley from Leyton Orient where his medal comes from. At 6’1 a towering central defender who can also provide cover at right back, like Doherty his cover in extra positions will come in handy over the course of a long season and the experience he brings in alongside the youth coming in has given the squad a nice blend.

Not to be finished there, Mitch Brundle pitched up to become the 10th signing of the summer. Brundle like the two prior arrivals has bundles of experience at this level and a potential crucial partnership with Payne, Harry Taylor or Fonguck when fit could be the key to a successful season.

With arrivals there are almost always departures and it was no surprise to see centre halves Liam Daly and Matt Preston leave the club, the former having fallen down the pecking list last season whilst the latter understandably wants to play week in week out after missing so much of last season through injury and not guaranteed a starting position this time around, a mutual agreement was reached.

I don’t believe this is the end of the incomings either, potentially as many as six more to come through the door and with a big number of trialists currently featuring in behind closed doors matches one or two at least will surely do enough to earn a squad number for next season.

Already this is a good blend of experience and youth, but with all clubs around us making some useful signings it’s going to take a very, very top drawer effort to make it out of the National League……….

The double act for success?

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………..

Bees fans wait a little longer

The managerial merry go round is all of a sudden in full swing and it doesn’t matter how well you’ve done at a club it can still be the final nail in the coffin.

In the past 24 hours we’ve seen Notts County dispense with the services of Neal Ardley whilst earlier on Thursday Bromley announced that they had relieved Neil Smith of his duties as First Team Manager.

You might not think too much of it as manager’s lose their jobs all the time, but both clubs are currently inside the play-off places, which if Bromley maintain their form is the highest placing the club would have ever achieved.

Does this mean managers in clubs all around these two might be fearing for their jobs? Are they worried the end is close for them whether they win a game or lose the next seven? It’s a dangerous situation being created and while we’re not privy to the ins and outs behind the decisions other than the released club statements it’s hard to work out what exactly is going on.

Similar to Jim Gannon who on the surface looked to be doing a sterling job at Stockport County, a culture change they wanted to install within the club despite at the time the club appearing well placed for some success.

Both managers appeared to be doing a good job on the pitch, the league position shows no doubt and with 14 games left to go now, the final run-in, it seems an odd time for either boss to go and now remains to be seen if either side will fall away over the course of those games.

That now means there are three current vacancies in non-league’s top division those two coupled with the Barnet job, open since the mutual departure of Tim Flowers two weeks ago, although County filled their spot quite quickly which might suggest Ardley’s fate had already been sealed.

Many and myself included were expecting an announcement to be in place in time for this weekend’s trip to Yeovil Town, Paul Fairclough saying his goodbyes after Saturday’s home defeat to Chesterfield and his three match stint was over.

 That trip to face the Glovers will be overseen by Head Of Performance Gary Anderson whilst the Bees continue to take their time in finding the right man. I believe the events of the past 24 hours have turned the chairman’s head that he is not yet convinced he has the right man for the job.

As Bees fans we know the next appointment has to be the one that can turn into the three year project that Barnet Football Club need. Having gone through two managers this season, both of which were not the right fit at all, the first we knew wasn’t, the second we hoped was but to no avail.

And whilst it might not be the best preparation for the weekend waiting just a few days longer might work out well to the advantage of the club. At the same time there is no midweek outing next week which would give Tony Kleanthous the weekend to finalise who exactly he wants in the hot seat and the structure in and around the football side of the club before the visit of Solihull Moors on Good Friday.

Can we expect Ardley or Smith to be in the frame now? I think so, at least one of them or maybe both, I don’t know what is in the thinking, both might even decide to have a few months off and see what’s available in the summer.

I would hope Smith is in the frame, not just because I know him reasonably well I think he can provide the stability we need but also is not afraid to tell it how it is. Plus his knowledge of southern based players would be an advantage if we aren’t wanting to spend out on long security of wages or relocation expenses.

I expect Dean Brennan and Harry Kewell still to be in the frame, however the longer it goes on you would think that maybe Kleanthous is not fully convinced by either appointment or he is making sure he exhausts all possible avenues.

Either way we’ve got a few more days waiting to see who’s next in the office at The Hive, but it must be done in time for Good Friday because it’s starting to look a little bit of a shambles the longer it goes on…….