Eames: That period was my favourite time in football

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with former Barnet FC Head Coach Rossi Eames to talk about his long period with the club, his time with the academy and getting the big job with the first team whilst also finding out why and where it didn’t go to plan. Here is part one and part two will be out later this week:

TK: Now I’ve got you down as joining Barnet in 2009 as a video analyst, but prior to that Chesham Utd, Amersham Town and Leeds Utd as an academy coach, is that right?

RE: Yeah, that’s pretty much it, I think though more 2010 when I properly started with Barnet. 2009 I was helping out the two clubs you mentioned above whilst at The Hive, played for Chesham as well in their reserves.

I originally went to Leeds to university to study Sports Coaching Science and it went from a one month placement to being employed at Leeds Utd in the space of three months. The club was going through a difficult spell in the early Noughties and as I was doing sessional stuff rather than full time employment they could offer me what I wanted so I left and went to Malia for the summer to DJ and work behind a bar.

My mates were all 18-30 reps out there so it was just a summer of chilling out, having a laugh, not treating life too seriously. Then I had a call from Aaron Chester who was alongside Paul Fairclough at the time and explained The Hive was in the process of being built and they were recruiting for roles in the new academy structure.

So I went along and was blown away by the facilities, granted the stadium hadn’t been built yet but everything else was a good vision of where the club wanted to be direction wise.

When I started there it was on £30 a week coding games for Aaron and for Jeremy Steele with the Under 18’s. And then a month into it James Thorne asked me to get involved on the coaching side which I jumped at and within three months I was running the college programme which sat alongside the academy.

It’s where Jamal Lowe came from, he’d been released from QPR and was head and shoulders above anyone else and was picked by James to train with the youth team. Iffy Allen also came into us via the college route as well, but Jamal was the one who stood out and he’s done very, very well for himself in the game.

Whilst attending college they trained at the same time as the scholars and we could pick and pull them from that group to step up and train with the youth team it was a conveyor belt of talent coming through.

TK: Was it from there that it took you onwards to coaching the Under 16’s and 18’s at Barnet?

RE: I think it was Mark Robson was in charge at the club, I was given the Under 12s-16’s but actually coached the 16’s. Some really good players in that time too, Kier Dickson, Alfie Cain and of course Jack and Harry Taylor. Jack was a 13 year old playing under 16 football, Harry was my captain at under 15, 16, and 18, very, very bright as a footballer.

That age group though were very talented as individuals but as a team they only won one game all season so our task was to get them playing together. It can be a difficult age where they’re doing their GCSE’s, understanding life as a young adult and wanting to be a professional footballer.

The incentive for them was seeing the first team players training at The Hive on a daily basis, they could see a pathway. Luke Gambin was with us at the time and caught Martin’s eye in a reserve team friendly which got him his chance in the first team.

TK: Was there any player you thought you work their way through Barnet and go on to have a good career? I know we’ve mentioned Jamal already, was there also one who you thought would make it but hasn’t for whatever reason?

RE: There were three lads I got Jeremy to look at from Chesham and the best one from them was a lad called Tom Fouhey. All three ended up in our youth team, but Tom was the stand out player a midfielder who could go box to box, comfortable on both feet and scored goals.

He got offered a pro deal at the end of the season but was also offered a scholarship in America to study medical science and of course took the latter. I wouldn’t say he was Premier League but good enough to have a league career, possibly Championship.

Jamal we knew would get there, he had all the qualities and took a different route to make it. Iffy Allen is probably the one, but in this game it doesn’t always work out how you expect it to.

I’ll mention Kai Mackenzie-Lyle who went to Liverpool and has now won promotion with Cambridge Utd, Dillion Barnes another keeper who went down to go back up as well.

The catchment area for Barnet is so vast you will always pick up some good talent and it’s a shame there is not academy currently for the club.

That period though was my favourite time in football, the staff we had around myself and Henry (Newman) like Dean Selvey and Ian Lowe who was our psychologist around the boys and he was great around the boys especially when it came to the time they were being kept on or released, that’s a tough time mentally.

Hakeem Odoffin was another who came into us, as a striker though but he was never going to make it there, so we moved him out wide as a winger but his end product just wasn’t there either so we moved him again this time to right back, Martin saw what he liked one afternoon and we signed him up.

Matt Stevens came to us as well from Reading having scored 30 odd goals from central midfield, he came in pre-season and did well, we thought we like that. So in he went as a striker but didn’t score in the first three games and missed a hatful of chances, we thought hang on what’s going on here!

But we offered him the two year contract as a scholar and promptly banged in a hat-trick for the youth team that afternoon, what a finisher though! The goals he scored, just made it look so easy and it was the year when the first team were doing well in the National League so Martin took a very keen interest in needing one or two for odd games.

That was such a fantastic time to be around that football club, loved working with and under Martin. I got on really well with Nursey (Jon Nurse) and still speak to him now, it was just a great time for the football club.

What a lot of people won’t be aware of too is the money we got from selling on some of these youngsters before they played first team football, the money we got Malakai Mars from Chelsea was unbelievable! A lad called Rui Costa went to Norwich, Anton Hooper to Aston Villa, Hakeem was only here for eight months before his move to Wolves, it was one or two going every year.

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.