The last word
The thoughts of Jim Kavanagh on Barnet's retained list
I was astonished to see that we had only released 3 players (+ 4 loanees and of course the already AWOL Scarlet Pimpernel/Serhat Tasdemir).
DB told us that he was sick and tired of players being injured, so it's no surprise that (the seriously injured), Joe Widdowson has gone, and "short" GK Askew & Teddy Howe never exactly endeared themselves to fans of the club so are unlikely to be missed.
The surprise isn't who has been released, but who hasn't been, (at least at 1st glance). Of course it's complete PR spin, (that a certain Dennis Signy would be rather proud of), to list both Marriott & Taylor as "considering contracts" rather than added to the released list. If you add those 2 names to the released list then things look rather more bleak I think you would agree. That's not a huge deal though because how likely is it that someone who scores as many goals as Marriott does for us, (was it 19 in the end in one of the poorest sides in the league?) is not going to be fielding offers from bigger and better clubs in the Conference, (as well as some League 2 clubs in my opinion). With regards to Taylor, some might suggest that he has served his time and deserves to resurrect his career elsewhere, (I would expect a DC influenced Southend to be VERY interested). Either way it will be of no surprise to anyone to see him leave after what he has been through with us over the last couple of years, (and I for one wish him all the best).
The other 2 players who we are told have been offered contracts are youngsters Callan and Granville. It would make sense to try to retain both as they are likely to be both cheap and have shown some promise. From their point of view it would be surprising to see them not stay, and to see them leave would indicate a level of toxicity at the club that has often been hinted at. Neither are likely to be in demand at this level, (or even the level below), elsewhere.
This brings us to the players who remain at the club and with that in mind we have to remind ourselves quite how critical DB has been of the physical frailties of this group.
Louis Walsh is the player who stands out most as "not a DB player" and he has been enormously reluctant to use him, and then pretty scathing about him when he has used him. I would suggest that while Walsh might be under contract, DB will have told him that he's not in his plans and he needs to engineer a move to somewhere where he will play.
This is where things become a little.... complicated.
If I look at the other 13 retained players, there are actually none that I think are rubbish and unable to play at this level. That's surprising to me because this group.... has performed below expectations is the most polite way of putting it.
Jamie Turley will be enormous this season. Not just on the pitch as a player, but also within the group as a leader. There is no doubt that his season was completely destroyed by the off-field issues with RB and I would expect that this affected others too. With that in mind I'm pleasantly surprised to see him on this list. I half expected his contract to be paid up and the club to attempt to draw a line under it. He's a hell of a player and his positive influence was missed enormously last season.
Aymen Azaze is a decent young GK and we all know how highly Loachy rates him. I would personally have him as the #2 next season, but wouldn't be afraid to use him at all. He will make mistakes, but he will also learn from them.
BRE is a decent player at this level but like others has been shunted from pillar to post and asking him to play at left back for example is simply ridiculous. He's certainly not one who falls into the "frail" category.
Sam Beard is one of the most popular players at the club and when he was fit we rarely imploded like we often did when he was absent. Makes an enormous difference to us but needs to be available more.
Jordan Thomas actually looked decent at times last season. He's one that falls into DB's "frail" category though and if he's going to make it here then he needs to be more robust.
Sam Woods was signed as a midfielder but if I use one of DC's terms, he's not very good at "handling the ball". I don't think we can carry players in midfield who can't look after the ball because it just invites pressure. A decent squad player, but perhaps more a centre-half than a midfielder?
Wes Fonguck is a player that I'm personally a fan of. I like his ability on the ball and when we have looked decent this season, he was often involved. RE commented that we played him to great effect at the base of a diamond in the Youth Team, and if we want to keep the ball then maybe he needs to play in a deeper role like that, (rather than someone like Woods who is unable to retain the ball).
Ryan De Havilland looks a decent player at this level and will only improve. He will benefit from playing in a dominant team that keeps the ball but we have to have defenders who can both defend and handle the ball in order to play this way. Last season they could do neither.
Kian Flanagan missed much of the season but he's certainly the type of player I want to see in our team. Someone good on the ball who will try to go past players and make something happen. Much will depend on how he recovers from his injury and this takes us back to DB's "frail" tag again.
EMC has long been the jewell in our crown and this is surely his last season with us, whether TK sells him or he leaves on a free at the end of the season. A delight to watch at times, all he needs is the platform to excel at this level.
Rob Hall has been a really good signing. Played a LOT of minutes this season in a number of different positions and seems to have been a real positive voice in what was not a very positive changing room. Phenomenal ability at this level & we just need to surround him with players to compliment the likes of him & EMC.
Daniel Powell had a poor injury record when he joined us and is possibly the most "fragile" of the fragile bunch that so confounds DB. No doubting his ability, but if he's not going to be fit then he might as well not be here. Pay him off and let him go.
Antonis Vasiliou is really raw and in all truth not technically good enough to play at this level if we're brutally honest. What he does have though is absolute bags of pace and it scares defenders to death. Play him from the bench and play to his strengths and use him intelligently and he could be a secret weapon. None of this aimless hoofing but a simple ball in behind is going to become a great ball with someone like him chasing it. Mad Dog would have found a way to use him and DB must too.
After going through that I'm surprised. I don't think any of those players are rubbish, (in fact I think quite a few of them are decent), but the fact remains that we conceded 89 league goals this season and far too often just seemed to admit defeat. That we conceded more this season than we did last season astonishes me, but I blame SB for that. His short tenure at the end of the previous season significantly lowered the average goals we conceded as he somehow turned some VERY averge players into pretty decent looking players with little more than structure, belief and work ethic. DB has hinted at that this season but has been unable to deliver it consistency, (largely down to player availability).
So the question I ask is, if lots of these players are decent(ish), (and I think they are), why haven't they managed to perform well as a team this season?
I know Hall doesn't play up front, (and neither does EMC on his own), but when you look at this starting XI I don't think it looks awful. In fact I quite like the look of it.
Maybe what we need is DB to implement a structure and way of playing that the players buy into, and create and environment off the pitch that the players enjoy and want to be part of. If he can do that then maybe just maybe things will start to improve and we can start looking up again rather than down.