Interview Series #1 : Charlie Cassen
Before the Bees kick off the 2017–2018 season against Forest Green, we caught up with Charlie Cassen. Charlie is a long-time Barnet fan and has come on the show several times before. Over the course of the season, we’re hoping to have him on the live podcast quite a bit. Here’s what he makes of our chances as we head into the new season.
IB: Hi Charlie, thanks for your time today. What were you’re thoughts on how Barnet got on last season?
CC: Quite early on, when we lost 4–1 at home to Exeter and we were second bottom, I thought it was going to be another poor season. But, to be fair to Allen, he picked it up and we had a great run before Christmas. No one saw Allen’s departure coming but in hindsight we shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone was a bit sceptical about how things would pan out under Eames and Newman but we started really well. After Orient away, I think we all got ahead of ourselves. It’s easy to get too overly optimistic when you’re a little club like Barnet and you break into the playoffs. We were thinking this could be our year — when little old Barnet, the underdogs, beat the odds.
As things turned out, it slowly slipped downwards from there. When Kevin Nugent came in, we completely capitulated. It was sad to watch the team in the 10 games under Nugent. They were nothing like the team we’d seen around the turn of the New Year, a world away from the great results we’d had against Orient and Plymouth in January. The team didn’t click with Nugent’s management — whether it was his fault or not, and the season faded away disappointingly.
IB: We went through four different manager combinations last season. Do you think that Rossi the right man for the club?
CC: It’s hard to say who is the right man for Barnet. Nugent could have been the right man on paper, but in reality the results showed he wasn’t. When Rossi and Henry originally got the job in November, I’ll admit that I was quite against it but Rossi has proved me wrong. I like his style a lot; he’s hand-on, knows the club inside out and has the respect of the players who want to play for him. As a young coach, he’s fresh, hungry and wants to do well. He’s been at the club for 7 years and, as a fan, I want someone who cares about the club, knows what the fans want and where we want to be.
IB: In January 2017, we added several players to the squad. Do you feel that the current group is ready for the upcoming season?
CC: I think we are ready, our starting our eleven as it stands can give anyone a game. That being said, it’s clear we need a holding midfielder. Sweeney, who came in January, hasn’t impressed enough to be starting player at this level. At the Swansea game, albeit against a good Swansea side, he struggled and I don’t think he’s ready for League 2 yet.
We’ve only signed three players this window, Ross, Brindley and Coulthirst, but I’ve always said that the January signings should be seen as new players. Clough, Bover, Akinola and Santos haven’t made their mark yet and we haven’t seen the best of any of them. Jack Taylor, an amazing player, who missed a lot of last year through injury hasn’t had a full season at this level. Jamal Campbell-Ryce who joined midway through is looking very sharp and again this is his first full season with us. I’m looking at all of these players as new signings going into the new season and I think everyone should be just as excited about them as about the new arrivals in the squad.
IB: For the past two seasons, the Bees have finished 15th. Where would you expect us to come this year?
There are some big sides that have left the division. Plymouth, Doncaster and Portsmouth are huge teams at this level and we managed to take points off two of them last season. Teams like Luton, who have recruited very well, and Mansfield, with their budget, will be challenging at the top. You can also expect bigger teams like Coventry — despite their financial issues, Lincoln who have made some good signings, and Swindon to be strong. Apart from that though there are no other teams that really stand out as a threat on paper.
It’s all going to depend on our longevity — how long can we stick around the top half of the table and not bottle the opportunities when they arise. If I were a betting man, I think we’ll finish just outside the playoffs. As a Barnet fan, I really do hope we can challenge for the playoffs this year. Not just dipping out and going crazy when we get a win that gets us in the top seven in February. We have got a chance to be in and around there all year, I don’t see why not. Apart from the bigger clubs I’ve mentioned, it’s wide open and there are no teams in a whole class above us. With the new signings and if carrying on growing as a club from last season we’re heading in the right direction. Hopefully this season is one more step to where we need to be and I hope we finish it on a positive note.
IB: Finally, who do you think will be our key player this year?
Jamal Campbell-Ryce. Akinde’s obviously huge for us but I’ve got a feeling that Campbell-Ryce is going to be our key player. He’s got great experience and will be settled in London. There’s something to that, we’ve got Campbell-Ryce, Akinde and Coulthirst — all Londoners, all playing in their hometown. I think you get happy performances when players are happy off the pitch and I think Campbell-Ryce will show that this year.