New year, new manager – a concept every Barnet fan has become all-too-familiar with.
When former Gillingham and Peterborough coach Mark Robson joined the club in June 2012, he was promised “a job for life”; instead he was undermined, slated by the fans and very rarely praised by anyone.
You could tell the players liked him – seeing younger team members celebrate goals with him was lovely to watch and the Tweets following his departure spoke volumes – however, for some reason, the Underhill faithful never properly warmed to him, and sadly I have to include myself among that number.
With the arrival of Edgar Davids as ‘Joint Head Coach’ in October last year, there were always going to be doubts as to how two very different characters could possibly manage the same team together – indeed, it could be argued that the departure of Robson was inevitable from the start.
And so we begin 2013 with just the one manager, and one who has very little direct experience of coaching at any level.
Not surprisingly, there’s still a strong sense of uncertainty surrounding the club, exacerbated by the lack of news regarding plans to relocate to The Hive in Edgware for the 2013/14 campaign and compounded by questions linked to Davids’ likely tenure at the helm.
To make matters worse, there’s a real dearth of quality within the squad.
With the transfer window open, now is the time to offload the ‘dead wood’ and invest in replacements – any fan will tell you that.
Unfortunately at Barnet, everything seems to be left to the last minute, which tends to be too late.
Take this campaign for example: we appointed Robson with the previous season finishing the month before.
In order to assemble a full squad in time for the new campaign, a number of apparently hasty decisions were made regarding signings and even then the team was modest in size.
I’ll be honest though: 2013 cannot possibly be as bad as 2012, or 2011 for that matter. Or even 2010 if it comes to that.
Nobody ever expects us to beat the drop, so why not silence the critics right now and instead of settling for 22nd place, aspire to something slightly more ambitious.
As for 2012, the highlight was, of course, the final day ‘great escape’ we’ve long become accustomed to – beating Burton Albion away 2-1, the winner coming from ‘captain fantastic’ Mark Hughes.
In truth, things only began to gel when the inspirational Martin Allen arrived for his annual final three games of the season in charge.
With ‘mad dog’ at the helm and a potential nine points to play for, there was a real buzz around Underhill: fans actually got excited and turned up in fairly large numbers for the penultimate game against AFC Wimbledon – a marked contrast to the leaden, morgue-like atmosphere that usually pervades the ground.
The result: a sensational 4-0 victory that proved hugely influential in helping us beat the drop.
That said, there had been a real sense of excitement earlier in the season, with the possibility the Bees could be heading for Wembley.
Under Lawrie ‘the magician’ Sanchez, the club made the area final of the JPT for the first time, although we were handed a difficult draw against the eventual League Two champions, Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon Town.
That one episode summed up 2012 nicely: we were genuinely excited about a competition fans rarely enthuse about, a cup that’s great if you make Wembley but is dismissed out-of-hand when you get knocked out.
So how best to conclude? It was the usual doom and gloom at the ‘Hill – a mixture of limp performances and soul-destroying underachievement.
The undisputed low point of last season came in October 2011: hosting Burton Albion we succumbed to a humiliating 6-3 defeat.
Sanchez should probably have gone there and then but we were left to endure a further six months of embarrassment and ridicule.
At present, it’s still very close at the bottom of League Two, with just eight points separating 18th and 24th.
The future may become clearer when the club learns to communicate with its fans on a more regular and considered basis, but in the meantime, here’s hoping we surpass the past three seasons’ last-day survival routine.