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Former Plymouth Arygle manager Carl Fletcher is looking forward to playing first-team football at Barnet after coming out of retirement
A 2-0 FA Cup defeat against Stourbridge. That’s no way to finish a playing career that has included 36 Wales caps, Premier League appearances aplenty and an FA Cup final start.
So 23 months on from that loss, Carl Fletcher’s name was pencilled in on a team-sheet. He would start for Barnet at Hereford United and the Bees went on to clinch a 1-0 victory.
The midfielder played 57 minutes and was happy to be back. It has been a long time coming.
Fletcher decided to end his playing career in May 2012, his last game had come seven months earlier. He was at Plymouth Argyle and was also the Pilgrims manager.
“I retired because I didn’t feel I could do both roles, so I took the decision to just manage,” he explained.
“You then don’t really think about not playing because you are managing day to day and have things going on.”
However, at the start of this year he was sacked following a string of poor results and that left him contemplating a playing return.
“I asked myself ‘what do I do now?’ I learnt a lot from management, although it came a bit earlier than I would have preferred.
“But I am still fairly young and if I can look after myself and stay injury free than I can have another two or three years playing.”
Fletcher decided to revive his playing career. He lost a stone and a half and joined the Bees for pre-season training in the summer.
“I worked hard but picked up a few niggles and a bad back which was really disappointing for me,” the 33-year-old said.
“But I got back and have been to see the head of sports medicine Pete (Friar) through the injury.
“He really helped me out and I owe a lot to him because he didn’t have to look after me.”
Fletcher returned to Barnet and trained for one week before his debut came against Hereford. The midfielder was solid if not spectacular but his experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable to a youthful Bees side throughout the rest of the season.
He said: “You can only offer advice to people and sometimes it will be tactical and other times it will be some encouragement. Giving someone encouragement can go a long way and can mean they give that extra yard when closing down.
“But I want to continue to work hard and play. I am just looking forward to playing first-team football again.
“I still think about coaching and managing and if the right opportunity came up then you never know.
“At the moment though I am fully focused on keeping myself fit and doing well for Barnet.”
The Bees sit eighth in the Skill Premier but remain in striking distance of a place in the play-off positions.
Many tipped Barnet to challenge for promotion and while Cambridge have established a healthy lead at the top of the table, Edgar Davids’ side are more than capable of achieving their season's objective.
Fletcher however remains cautious: “It is a tough league and it is the same for any club, the expectation level can be more crippling than anything else.
“Barnet have gone down from League Two but kept most of their players, and they are very good, from last season.
“Everyone is expecting them to bounce straight but it is never that easy. So we need to manage that expectation level and, it is a cliché, but take every game as it comes.”
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