Apologies for the slightly misleading title of the blog, there should have been a hyphen in there somewhere, for anyone who has clicked through due to the fascination of Giant Killing Bees please keep reading but you may be disappointed. The Bees in question are not particularly scary – unless you are a promotion candidate in League Two.
In recent weeks the perennial relegation candidates, Barnet FC, have come away from fixtures against Rotherham, Gillingham and, League Cup hopefuls, Bradford with 9 points. This is really quite incredible feat taking into account that two of these were away. Sandwiched in within those results was an away draw to a strong Exeter side and a disappointing loss at home to fellow strugglers Aldershot. 10 points gained from this particularly tough period of fixtures following Christmas is a hugely successful haul for a side that, at one point, were languishing at the bottom of the table with only three points from eleven games.
The credit for this remarkable turnaround in fortunes must lie at the door of Edgar Davids who has instilled a resilience and a confidence which was so sorely lacking during the opening months of the season. He has lead from the front by strapping on his boots and demonstrating the tenacity, and the occasional mistimed tackle, for which he was so highly regarded during his illustrious career. While he may have lost his pace and occasionally looks off the pace he still possesses the touch of class which sets him above the rest on the field.
In a managerial capacity, he has succeeded in tightening up a suicidally leaky defence which had conceded 26 goals in the first 12 games of the season and has imbued a confidence which had been completely eroded before his arrival. His arrival could have proved intimidating to a bunch of League Two players, unaccustomed to the media fanfare and to working alongside such a decorated player. Conversely, it would have been easy for Davids to have believed himself above the job, yet he has thrown himself in with a passion and commitment which has rubbed off on the players. There have been many cases where ex-players have seen themselves as big fish in a little pond and have seemed to use the club as a play thing to keep themselves amused in retirement. This cannot be said of Davids, he has treated the club and fans with respect by convincing them that his number one priority is avoiding relegation.
One of my favourite aspects of Davids’ managerial reign has been the humbleness he has demonstrated when he is no longer having a positive impact on the match, by pointing toward the bench and subbing himself off. It was one of these self-substitutions which gave an excellent insight into the relationship he had with his former ‘Joint’ Head Coach, Mark Robson.
As I wrote in a previous blog, Robson disappeared from view after the appointment of Davids, he sulked on the bench and very rarely stuck his head above the parapet of his dugout to make himself known to the supporters sat behind. Spotting him became a hobby; even Bill Oddie once graced the Main Stand with his binoculars waiting patiently to see Robson’s quiff venture out of the safety of the dugout only to quickly retreat back into his nest until next week. It was clear that Davids was the Alpha male of the relationship, to be fair there would be few occasions where he wouldn’t be.
The relationship between the ‘joint’-head coaches was exemplified perfectly during a game in which Davids was struggling to make an impact, it was clear to everyone that he needed to come off, yet who would make that decision? Would Robson whisper it in the ear of the 4th Official before running to safety? Or would he sit, meekly watching the great man misplace pass after pass? In the end neither situation arose – it was Davids who strolled over to the bench, barked an order at substitute Andy Yiadom indicating that he wanted him to be his replacement. This moment made it crystal clear the new power structure at the club: Edgar Davids is King.
From this moment it was only a matter of time until Robson was shown the door, the relationship between the two was so one sided, you felt Robson was a man looking in through the window and having no impact upon proceedings Robson was living on borrowed time after the disastrous start to the season and was only hanging on thanks to Paul Fairclough’s embarrassment in having made the stupid decision to announce that Robson had a ‘job for life’.
Statements of this kind, as admirable as they seem, have found a way of backfiring upon spokesperson this season; with Alan Pardew’s Newcastle plummeting since he was awarded an eight-year contract and his future seemingly to be heading a similar way to Robson’s ‘job for life’. Paul Fairclough, Director of Football at Barnet, has been the one to have had the spotlight turned upon him this season after another poorly conceived managerial appointment and a declining skill in the scouting department causing many within Underhill to question his position. His close ties to the Chairman Tony Kleanthous will probably mean the desire to see him pay the price for these decisions will not come to fruition. However, his decision-making needs some improvement if he wants to dispel the naysayers and to ensure he will not be joining Mark Robson in the queue at the Job Centre.
After the inevitably doomed Joint Head-Coach experiment Barnet now have only one Head Coach, it’ll never catch on, to steer the club to safety from the depths of despair for the fourth season running. Unfortunately for Barnet their fellow contenders for the drop have also shown an annoying ability to pick up unlikely points indicating another tight finish at the bottom. With the continued application of Davids’ determination and a fair bit of luck I have faith that Barnet can survive once more. It would be a great, and very important, way to say goodbye to Underhill and beckon in a new era at the Hive.
Written by Doug Pyrke, We Are Going Up’s Barnet Blogger
Doug tweets at @dougiepyrke