Back to square one as Flowers goes

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Tim Flowers arrived at The Hive on a wave of optimism, to be the man that would bounce the Bees back up the National League table after replacing Peter Beadle. Indeed the two men who’ve occupied the Barnet dug out this season have one thing in common, they both lasted a similar amount of time.

Three months ago, Flowers arrived with the Bees just outside the bottom three, Beadle having been sacked after a 6-0 thumping at Chesterfield. The ex-Solihull Moors boss was originally been thought to have interviewed in the summer for the job but lost out to the former Bees striker and subsequently pitched up at Macclesfield Town only to not manage a game before they went bust.

And now here we are with Flowers and Barnet ‘mutually’ parting ways with the club under both managers now on a run of one win in the last 21 games. Flowers record itself in just over three months is one win in 12 games, 11 of those in the National League, Beadle’s record prior to that in all games was four wins in 16 games, only two of those victories came in the league.

Once again as a club Barnet are in familiar territory, struggling and manager less although if you know the club well enough by the time you actually read this there is likelihood of a new man in the home dugout.

What went wrong for Flowers? Well, what went right really! At the beginning his interviews were all about knowing it was a big challenge and that’s why he was there. I don’t think he underestimated the challenge but a lot more to it and now today we’re here with three different sets of players within one squad, some of whom have played three different styles of play in 12 months.

When Flowers was appointed I knew what the style would be, get it forward quick and play off the second ball, the question was always going to be whether the personnel were there to play that way or enough players could be brought in to suit the change in play. The answer in the end was neither, the players brought in haven’t blended with those already at The Hive and the style didn’t produce results, the stats tell us enough.

We have the bizarre situation of six loan players with only five of them allowed in a matchday squad, with one of those extended for a further month which appeared just to cover a further signing’s suspension carried over from his previous club.

A bloated squad of 34 professionals at the last count has seen some now placed on the furlough scheme, something which a lot of clubs are now doing in the National League, but it doesn’t sit right with me nor a lot of other people at Barnet or any other club. I hope most of those in the 34 are not contracted beyond this summer in which we will head towards another rebuild under yet another manager.

Having watched his interview after Tuesday night’s defeat to Wrexham, his body language was evident to say before a word was spoken that he had run out of ideas to get something from this bunch of players. Some have mentioned he had lost the dressing room, his constant tool of battering the players in the post-match interview didn’t go down well. Did he need to try and adapt his style to fit the players he had and could get?

To constantly concede goals from set pieces and crosses suggests the players either stopped listening or technically aren’t good enough to carry out instructions given to them during the week. Teams worked out very quickly how to beat us and it hasn’t stopped happening despite the influx of new players.

Whilst at times and very sporadically the team have looked more secure at the back, it evaporates as soon as they go a goal behind and then collapse, the stats as stated above don’t lie and in 24 league games this season the side have conceded three or more goals on nine occasions, a goal difference of minus 41 is well in excess of anyone else in the league.

Two loan strikers who have yet to find the net tells its own story as does just 18 goals in those 24 games, that end of the pitch provided no improvement under Flowers reign indeed only seven goals scored with two of those coming in the only win over FC Halifax.

So where do we go now then? As expected names are in the frame despite it surely looking like the poisoned chalice from the outside. There are plenty of out of work managers out there, but would you risk your reputation on a club that has gone through 25 managers since 2010?

In a way it’s a no lose situation for an incoming manager given the current position to try and turn it around but still a big ask for anyone worth their salt. I can’t imagine there is budget space left for any more players to come in so whoever is charged with the task will have to get a tune out of the 34 players on the books.

My personal opinion would be a caretaker until the season ends in May, can we afford to get it wrong again and sack or mutually dispense of another manager after a bad run of defeats if it comes to that? But if we go down that route, we must be ready on that first Monday after the season ends to appoint the new man, get the retained list out and start planning, not follow what we did this year and create the mess we are now deep in.

The fanbase is fractured once again, a small way to start yet another repair would be a former player or manager of the club in charge, someone who understands what Barnet FC are about. It will however take a lot more than this to get people back onside and caring about the club again, I think if I remember rightly 12 months ago people did care and enjoy it under that particular manager.

And all that comes down to one man. We can speculate the full cost of the decisions made since August it must be more than the anticipated outlay expected for 2020-21 in total. That could have been avoided from day one, I can’t say for sure we would be enjoying a fruitful campaign but I don’t think it would a relegation threatened time and most would accept that under the pandemic conditions mid-table was acceptable.

And before I get to finish the blog this evening, they pop up and announce Paul Fairclough has stepped in to ‘technically advise’ for the trips to Bromley and Stockport. Of course no stranger to the club as the 2004-05 title winning manager returns to The Hive but after a very long period out of game, surely is nothing more than a favour to Tony Kleanthous? Maybe Martin Allen didn’t answer the phone this time?

So far it hasn’t inspired Bees fans across social media and I believe that all this does is buy the chairman a week or so to evaluate the next step. As above I still believe this should be a caretaker role for someone with 18 games to go after these next two games but the next steps must be very robust in its thinking.

Names will of course be linked, Aaron McClean who had a spell here a few years ago and highly thought of as an up and coming coach, Harry Kewell, the return of Ian Hendon, Dean Brennan who appeared to turn us down before Flowers arrived and of course Darren Currie for a dramatic return.

One last thing to finish on. Tony, pick a philosophy and stick with it please. You might like going round in ever decreasing circles but as supporters we don’t and it has to change. Not everything can be done on the cheap and I think we deserve better, we’ve discovered over the last 12 months football is nothing without its fans, it has to be right this time before you lose the very people here to be entertained…………

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………….