As you may or may not know, there is a feature about Barnet in this month’s FourFourTwo magazine. A couple of the guys were at the Aldershot game on New Year’s Day, with one of the writers (Nick) and a photographer. Following my previous piece I wrote for them on last season’s relegation scrap (which you can find here), I was asked to give my input again on all things Davids and how the campaign thus far was going.
I didn’t realise at the time, that there would be such a lengthy feature about us and obviously a lot of my content got cut out. I thought I’d blog my responses to the questions I was asked as well as attaching a copy from the magazine. I’ve copied and pasted it so it will be in Q&A format (although I was always taught at Uni to steer clear of that).
How did the fans feel when Davids arrived? How crazy/ unbelievable was it?
It was a strange time. A couple of weeks before, one of the youth players took to Twitter saying Davids had been spotted at The Hive (our training ground). Obviously at this point, nobody knew what he was doing there, but rumours soon spread. I think if we hadn’t known about that one incident, it would have been a massive shock, but personally I was waiting for it to be announced. I was still surprised though – especially when it was explained he’d taken up a player/manager role! I still have to pinch myself because it doesn’t seem real – a legend like that at our club!
What do you think the effect has been on the club?
Well the results have certainly improved. I think he’s been a good influence on the young players in the side as well. It must be special for them to be working alongside someone of his stature, and obviously they want to impress. It’s definitely a bit different than playing for likes of Barcelona and AC Milan. I’m not too sure what things are like behind the scenes, but I don’t think they’ve been good for a while – let’s just say that the set-up, staff-wise, doesn’t seem to the best.
Can he understand football at this level?
The results so far suggest that he is a quick learner; since his arrival, we’ve taken 20 points from 14 games compared to 3 from 11 before he joined!
How has he personally played at this level?
His debut was amazing – he lasted the whole 90 minutes against Northampton, captaining the side in the process. His passing, in particular, was incredible, as was his all-round work-rate and stamina. Not bad for a bloke of 39. All this contrasts massively with reports of his time at Crystal Palace – the last time he played competitively some two years ago! Since then, his performances have been less spectacular but nonetheless he’s still a commanding presence on the field. Needless to say, ‘The Pitbull’s’ feisty attitude has led to, er, a number of yellow cards...
What kind of football are you playing this season?
The plans pre-season were for a “total football” Barcelona-style ‘tiki-taka’ approach; in truth, we’ve seen very little of that so far, though the arrival of some experienced players from a higher level (including Davids and John Oster) have clearly raised the standard.
Has Davids had much contact/ a good rapport with the fans?
Obviously being a major star of world football, he always gets a very good reception from the fans. When he went off injured at Exeter, even their fans applauded him as he left the pitch, which he acknowledged sportingly.
What did you think about Robson, and what do you think about his sacking?
When it was revealed that he’d be first-team coach it has to be said that the response was somewhat underwhelming. With no disrespect to Mark Robson as a person, I think a lot of people were hoping we’d get Martin Allen especially as he said he’d be up for the job himself. Robson hadn’t had experience of managing on his own, so I think he needed support from the start. It’s a results-driven business and without a win in our first 11 league matches, it was hardly an auspicious start to his managerial career. Things noticeably picked up when Davids joined as Head Coach, but the concept of two men in charge is notoriously fraught with difficulty, particularly given Davids’ experience and ambition. Something had to give. Hopefully Robson will enjoy success at a future club.
Was he unlucky? Was the situation untenable as soon as Davids arrived?
It could be argued that many clubs would not have given a new manager 12 games in charge, particularly after such a dreadful start. At this point in the season, the team weren’t even gelling particularly well either – it wasn’t even a case of us being unlucky or suffering narrow defeats. We were, quite frankly, hopeless. The arrival of ED clearly created new tensions but ultimately, Robson appeared popular with the playing staff, hence the number of sympathetic tweets from players when news broke of his departure.
Do you think you'll stay up, or will it be another nerve-shredder?
Going into the New Year, we were the ninth-best team form-wise over the past 11 games and enjoyed the best Christmas in League Two with seven points from nine. Based on that form, the possibility of new signings and a number of players coming back from injury, we have the potential to avoid our final day dice with the drop – and even aspire to mid-table mediocrity. The current form of the teams around us down in the depths also gives genuine cause for optimism.
How do you see the future for Barnet?
So much hinges on our plans for the new stadium, The Hive and whether Davids stays or tires of the ordeals of League Two. Even Nostradamus would have trouble predicting the future. Having followed the Bees for 19 years, I can safely say that the next few years will not be boring!
Is Davids a flash in the pan or a sign that the club have big ambitions? Is your chairman particularly ambitious?
The concern with having someone of Davids’ cachet at the club is that he could quickly become bored with the rough and tumble of League Two and seek new challenges. At the moment though his commitment seems genuine enough and there have been odd comments in interviews where he has spoken about long-term plans and the squad for next season. Personally, I think it would be wrong for us Bees fans to get too far ahead of ourselves though as experience shows the club tends to disappoint. Our chairman, Tony Kleanthous, has been accused in the past of lacking ambition (i.e. not spending money) but his stewardship of the Hive project and continued search for a new stadium would suggest otherwise. The signing of players like Collins John, John Oster and Davids himself also indicate that his plans are indeed forward-looking, if not unsustainably so.