I talk to a Barnet fan ahead of the new season, how will the club with a famous slope do this season? Is it their year to shine?
Tell us a bit about your season last season firstly. Would you say it was a success or failure? Did you achieve anything throughout the season, and were the fans happy with the end result
Well, it depends how you look at it. Many feel Barnet are doing well to be punching above their weight, given the size of the club, so 14th in League Two was in some ways an achievement. However, the final few months of the season were somewhat depressing as the games got more and more meaningless and the results so unpredictable. It was frustrating, we did the double over Hartlepool, beat Swindon, ended Stockport’s 9 game winning run (as I’m sure you’ll be well aware of) and other such victories, yet lost at home to the likes of Accrington and Wrexham. If we raised our game against every team and not just the top 10, we may have been in with a shout at the play, so the general fans view was a mixed one, but for me, it was a disappointing season. In the league that goes for, not the cup. We made the FA Cup 4th Round for the first time in our history, knocking out Northampton and Colchester, before losing 0-2 at home to Plymouth. Another notable success away from the league was the 2-0 Carling Cup win away to Cardiff City, when the Bluebirds were top of the Championship.
Obviously every close season sees players leave. Who left your club and were you happy with the decision to let those players go by your boss?
This summer has seen a long, long list of departures. Most however I think were pleasing. We lost three key players in King, Bailey and Sinclair, but these losses were inevitable and the three combined to earn us £500k in transfer fees. Given altogether they only cost us £10k (Bailey from Sutton, the other two were frees!), we can’t really complain about that. Releasing striker Ollie Allen we may regret and possibly right winger Barry Cogan, but generally Fairclough got rid of players that weren’t up to it, or were simply too good to stay at Barnet.
So obviously, with players going out, some have got to come in. Who has come in for you, and do you expect them to do well? Tell us a bit about these lads?
We’ve signed a lot of unproven players. Largely non-league signings. Michael Leary (Luton) and Sagi Burton (Shrewsbury) are our only two signings with past league experience. Neal Bishop comes from York in the Conference with a good reputation. The other new boys are all from the part time leagues further down the non-league pyramid. Fairclough is taking some serious gambles, but they could pay off. Anthony Thomas could be one to look out for, 77 goals in 2 seasons for Hemel Hempstead in the Southern League, but will he make the step up?
Who are going to be your star players this season then? Who`s going to get the goals, and who`s going to stop them?
I reckon Adam Birchall can be a 15 goal a season striker, at least. He’s got bags of ability, a bit of confidence in front of goal to go with it and I think he can be a very, very good player at this level. At the back, Ismail Yakubu stands out. He’s 22 now, been with the club since 11 and is mature beyond his years having been a first team player since 2001/02. A great servant to the club and if he can build on the season he had last year, I expect he’ll be moving on to better things in time to come.
Season ticket sales help the club at the beginning of the season to stabilise the place and give it a bit of extra income. How many season tickets have your club shifted these season so far, and what do you expect the average attendance to be throughout the season
I’m afraid I have no idea how many season tickets we’ve sold. It’s never announced by the club. Our average attendance depends on the sort of season we have. Around 2000 if we’re not very good, 2,500 if we do fairly well and should we go against all the odds and be up near the top 7, close or maybe even beyond the 3000 mark.
Tell us a bit about your gaffer and his backroom staff. Do the fans like the gaffer, or can you see him being out of a job after a run of bad results?
He’s a lucky man that he wasn’t out of the job around October / November last year. We were playing some dire stuff and suffered results such as the 0-5 home defeat to Lincoln. Out of nowhere we found form though and winning at places like Hartlepool around that time allowed him to hold onto his job. Our chairman has never sacked a manager, but I believe if we hadn’t had a good month last November, he would have done. There’s a very mixed opinion on Paul Fairclough. He took us up to this league in 2005 and therefore goes down as a legend for that, but since has failed to impress me personally and I feel he’s taken the club as far as he can go. After three and a half years he’s finally appointed an assistant manager however, long serving club captain Ian Hendon takes up the role now he’s (semi) hung up his boots. I believe Hendo is almost a dead certainty to be our manager after Fairclough. A bad start to the season and he might get that chance sooner than most would think..
This question is split into two. What do you BELIEVE your club can achieve this season, and what do you HOPE your club can achieve this season?
BELIEVE: That we wont finish in the top half. We look like we have a few decent players, but a lot are unproven and our squad is as thin as one of Kate Moss’ legs.
HOPE: We can defy all the odds and at least have a flirt with a play-off challenge and end up anywhere in the top 10.
Finally, whom do you expect to win the division, who do you think will go up with them and who do you think will be relegated?
Darlington to be Champions, it’s about time they finally lived up to their own hype and with some of their signings, they surely have to be somewhere in the top 3 at least. I reckon MK Dons and Peterborough will join them in the top 2, Grimsby via the play-offs. However, by selecting the three biggest spending clubs / favourties, I’m almost certain now at least one wont make the top 3, but we shall see.
I think Barnet will probably be in a bit of a dogfight, but I believe there are worse teams than us and I’m going to go with Macclesfield and Accrington to both return to Non League.