In a move that has surprised the majority of fans, Barnet have appointed former manager, Martin Allen as manager for the rest of the season, which, in this case, means for the next eight, crucial matches. Paul Fairclough stands down and will, presumably, return to his post as Director of Football Development.
Allen, who played for West Ham and QPR, joined Barnet as coach to Peter Shreeves in 2002 and the two were initially a great success taking Barnet from 15th in the Conference up to 5th at the end of the season, a position that now would guarantee a place in the play-offs.
The following season, 2002/03, was disappointing though. Barnet started the season with high hopes of place in the play-offs, but were hit with a glut of injuries at the start of the season and only fleetingly threatened a play-off place. Peter Shreeves quit unexpectedly in March 2003 and Martin Allen was given the job of manager. Some established players such as Greg Heald, Lee Harrison, John Doolan and Wayne Purser left shortly after to be followed at the end of the season by Mark Gower and leading goalscorer and player of the year, Junior Agogo as Allen had a clearout.
During the summer, Allen brought in virtually a new team with some of the players coming in being destined to be real crowd favourites over the next few years such as Ian Hendon, Simon King, Liam Hatch and Guiliano Grazioli, who arrived as part of the Agogo deal from Bristol Rovers. A number of other astute signings were to be made by Allen that season including those of Joe Gamble, Matt Redmile and Chris Plummer.
Under Allen, the football was generally exciting and, more to the point, the Bees spend most of the season in the top five with some outstanding performances, such as the memorable 2-1 win at Stevenage when the injured Ian Hendon went to join the Barnet fans to gee up support for the team. Allen also looked to raise the club’s profile with a number of publicity stunts, activities which, though not clear at the time, apparently, cause a divide between him and chairman, Tony Kleanthous.
With the Bees heading towards the play-offs, Allen suddenly left, accepting an offer to manage League One, Brentford, a decision which upset and disappointed most Barnet fans, alienating Allen from the fans in times to come. Brentford were in a similar situation to the one that Allen finds Barnet in now, but he managed to avoid the drop and keep them up. The following two seasons he took Brentford to the League One play-offs, though both times they were unsuccessful and in 2006 he left Griffin Park and took over as manager of League Two, MK Dons, taking them to the play-offs in his first season.
That summer he left MK Dons and tool over at Championship club, Leicester City but left soon after due to a row with the Leicester chairman. He became the manager of Cheltenham Town in 2008 but was relieved of that position a year later amid allegations of racist abuse. Allen has been brought in by Kleanthous in the hope that he can galvanise the Bees’ squad to improve their form sufficiently to avoid dropping out of the league. The appointment of Allen as Barnet manage is one that is likely to devide fans but Allen has acted quickly in bringing in Barnet legend, Grazioli to be his assistant manager and the appointment of this highly popular player, associated very closely with the Conference winning season of 2004/05, should go some way towards alleviating fans’ concerns. Barnet fans will await events with keen interest in what is becoming something of a soap opera this season.