Bees almost at the ready

It’s been a very long while since the last Barnet blog, indeed when Peter Beadle was appointed as manager the last time the keyboard was tapped and opinions formed.

That was 23rd August to be precise but like most Bees fans my eyes haven’t been away from the page to keep tabs on what has been going on and who’s going to be wearing the black and amber this season.

Whilst I write there is currently no chance of getting into The Hive this weekend to watch us take on Eastleigh which is a massive shame, I had plans for a little meeting afterwards with Strevs, who I’ve kept in contact with throughout the last few months along with Neil Smith and Darren Currie, but alas no plans to be made and that will have to wait for better times.

It’s fair to say that it’s taken a little bit of time to realise that we aren’t expecting to see the kind of performances we were getting prior to lockdown, the calibre of players are not at the same level coming in, they may change my opinion of that in games to come, I hope they do in all honesty.

Games without fans at this level is going to look very odd for weeks, while we might be used to it at Premier League level with pumped in crowd sounds, it’s going to be like watching training matches in your own stadium. I am hopeful we won’t see this for too long at our level, our grounds can cope perfectly well with social distancing of say 1000 people as a starting point, its outside and public transport is not going to get overwhelmed, most people drive themselves and friends to a game!

So far then six signings and a really mixed bag in total, not sure it’s quite enough to make the squad look at least reasonably full and there might be a couple more to come before we kick off this weekend.

When Ben Nugent was announced as the first signing I thought it was a good measure of the calibre player we might expect for others. 222 senior appearances, a promotion to the Premier League on his CV from seven years ago, looks decent enough at first glance, 6ft 5in for a centre back is commanding.

The next two signings are ones I hope prove me wrong, Eliot Richards and Tyrone Duffus. Both well known to Beadle having played for him at Hereford, Richards does have 150 EFL appearances which like Nugent gives him some experience, but last played under Beadle in 2017 and more recently spent time at Merthyr. Duffus is also one well known to the manager also having been at Hereford, recently at Warrington Town and like Richards stepping up two levels to join the Bees, whether either or both bridge the gap will show over the next few weeks.

The other three signings do all come with some National League experience, J J Hooper had a 14 goals in 22 games record at Bromley which prompted a move to Wrexham, unable to settle there saw him net just six times last season and a move closer to home again will hopefully re-ignite his career.

Alex McQueen and Jerome Binnom-Williams, both full backs, have turned out for Dagenham & Redbridge and Halifax respectively last season with some 80 games between them and should be solid if not spectacular.

In the light of the on-going restrictions it would seem sensible to not fill the budget for now and keep things tight, the loan market has to be used effectively to supplement the players that are already there and I would guess there is little panic around The Hive compared to say Notts County or Dagenham where wages are that much higher and no income from supporters inside stadiums the money has to come from somewhere.

I’m not expecting to set the world alight, competitive is all I ask for this season and the odd surprise result. Having not been able to see much from pre-season as you normally would it’s hard to put down a decent prediction. Nowhere near the relegation zone will suit me, but if you get on a run and momentum builds then who knows, we’ll find out in a few weeks……..

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……………….

Is the start date too late?

With a date now announced for the beginning of the 2020/21 season for the National League clubs as being the 3rd October, non-league football now has itself set up ready to return and the hope that there are no interruptions heading our way this time.

As we found out during last week lower down the pyramid at Step 3-6, dates in September are when they will begin and with both the EFL and Premier League re-starting on 12th September I’ll be honest I was expecting the National League to fall in line as they waited to do so all through the lockdown period, but no, lets be different!

Let’s dissect it in a little more detail and try to work out the logic behind the reasons. On the sensible side if the National League fall under the bigger stadium rule set out by the government then starting behind closed doors has been discussed as not possible for clubs at Step 1 and 2, it wouldn’t be practical or feasible and so beginning on October 3rd is very sensible in that respect. Clubs can open with capacity restrictions expected still but that is better than no income at all.

It also gives those clubs the time to get things right and Covid-19 ready to maximise every tiny bit they can as part of what is currently normal. There is also the preparation needed for those clubs who have taken part in the play-offs and a chance for the administration to get the fixtures out there with finals still to be played this weekend and also the small matter of Stevenage contesting their relegation versus Macclesfield’s points deductions so in principle it appears a good decision.

On the flip side of that though is those players who have worked up a bank of fitness over July for the play-offs look like its now either going to waste or a two month pre-season for those players. Do clubs give those players a few weeks off and return again knowing it’s going to be a repeat of the same work? Do they go with individual plans for each player as they did during lockdown? Or do they power through adding new signings along the way?

The next big question is while the players are getting honed back in the right condition, who are they going to play in pre-season friendlies? Whilst the National League players are back in training, everyone else up and down the country will have kicked off their league seasons so are we looking at Premier League Under 21 or Under 18 sides as opposition? That part has been poorly thought out, under-prepared and under-strength friendlies will not work for these clubs, it’s to see how they will all get up to match fitness and a higher level of sharpness before kick off.

Two months worth of games to fit in beginning in October with one Saturday at the end of the month lost to the FA Cup, so where do these games fit in then? The National League commonly play one third of their season within the first three months, two months of that will be dead rubber, in August and September, and unless the crystal ball has shown that there will no repeat of the horrendous rain we suffered last winter then the fixture list might just about survive, any cup run though could seriously hamper a title charge for anyone.

Maybe I’m being a little bit harsh here I don’t know, and more will come out in the next few days regarding how clubs can combat the distance in time between training and who exactly will be left to play apart from fellow National League outfits otherwise I finding it hard to see a reason why the season cannot begin during the month of September.

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!