Mark Robson talks about settling in and why he signed Barnet’s New Boys
A week can be a long time in football. So when we realized that new Bees Head Coach, Mark Robson, had been at the club for just over a month, we thought it was time to sit down with him in his new office at The Hive and talk about how he’s settling in. And with his first pre-season match out of the way, we wanted to know how the squad is shaping up and what attributes attracted him to our summer signings…
Barnet.com:So Mark, we know you’ve spent a couple of week settling in…How have you found your time at Barnet so far?
Mark Robson: Yeah it’s been really good. Obviously, the first couple of weeks I came in and spent a lot of the time on the phone, speaking to players, speaking to agents, which was all very, very busy. And then there’s other things like organizing the pre-season training schedule, of course, and getting to know everybody at the club. Those were obviously the first important things I had to do. But yeah, it’s been very enjoyable the whole time. It’s a different role for myself in terms of what I’ve been doing previously, so I’m relishing every moment so far and enjoying it.
Barnet.com:You’ve had to hit the ground running and really get your teeth into it straight away, was there any aspect that you weren’t expecting or perhaps would be slightly more challenging than you’ve had to adapt yourself to?
MR: Well, certainly the phone calls! I knew it was going to be busy, but I didn’t realize how busy it was going to be. But I’m getting there. After the initial crazy period, things have calmed down a bit now and I’ve gotten pretty used to it. But other than that, no not really. Things have run pretty smoothly in terms of organizing stuff has been good. Certainly, the first week of pre-season training has been really good and the players all seem to be enjoying themselves, which definitely makes a difference. So far it’s all been good.
Barnet.com:What was your message to the players when you first met them only a couple of weeks ago?
MR: Well, I actually rang them all when I first got the job, as most of them were either away on their holidays or resting at home. I made sure I spoke to them all individually just to introduce myself and say "Hello" and to say how much I was looking forward to meeting them when they came in for pre-season. Since then, they’ve had a chance to see how I work and how I want the team to play, and I think they’re getting a grip of that pretty quickly.
Barnet.com:Obviously there were some players here when you joined, but you’ve also brought in a number of players…
MR: Funnily enough, I watched Barnet quite a bit last season – I came to six or seven games, I think – so I had a bit of an idea of the players that were here when I arrived anyway. And I have to say, these players that were here have really impressed me in terms of their ability and determination, and that certainly looks good for the season. But of course we needed to bring some in as well. We’ve brought in some young players who we’ve managed to get from other London clubs and I’m hoping to bring in a few more soon. Hopefully some players with a little bit more experience…and also to even the average age of the squad a little bit too! [laughs] But, all-in-all I’m very happy with the players that were here and those that we’ve brought in so far too.
Barnet.com:If we look at each individual signing who you’ve brought in so far – First off was young Goalkeeper, Sam Cowler, who was actually from one of your old clubs (West Ham) as well as spending some time as part of the Centre of Excellence here. Was that a signing that you had a say in or was it a case of him doing well at the C of E and they brought him in?
MR: Sam came in the back-end of last season, played a few games for the Youth Team during their successful season and did very well. He’s a very promising Keeper that many people in the game were talking about so it was actually a nice coincidence that he came in around the same time as me. But he’s come in, training with us, and he’s a young lad with a lot of developing to go through, but he’s shown up well so far and I’ve been very impressed with him. Technically he’s been very good and his kicking and distribution has been decent too. But like I said, he is only young and he’s definitely going to get better as he gets older, but I’m keen not to heap too much expectation on the lad just yet. I’m looking forward to helping him develop.
Barnet.com:Moving onto the defense, let’s look at your next signing – Left Back, Jordan Brown. He’s a big, physical player and another one from West Ham. So what did you see in Jordan to bring him here?
MR: Jordan was someone who was very highly thought of at the West Ham Academy and I think they had high aspirations for him. It looked like a case of he was at a big club and just couldn’t get a game coz of all the players they were bringing in and I think he might have lost his confidence a little bit, which would obviously affect a young player if he’s not playing, and he just needs to get out and play. Potentially, I think we’ve got ourselves a really good Left Back. He’s obviously a big lad, he’s a good size and when he’s fully-fit, in terms of what he does pre-season he’ll be raring to go and I’m very hopeful that we’ve got an exciting defender on our hands. I think in this division you need to have that edge about you in terms of size and being able to compete, which Jordan has, and he likes a tackle too. But he can certainly play as well and he wants to play with the ball at his feet. It fits in with the style of football I’m looking to bring here. He’s young and maybe got a point to prove and we want that hunger at Underhill. If we can work hard with him and develop him on the training ground, like all these players, he’s someone who could have a very long and successful career.
Barnet.com:Speaking of young defenders, let’s move over to the centre of defense and talk about Jack Saville, who was someone who was here previously, but was involved in a ‘will he? Won’t he’ scenario when it came to him signing again. Did you have any influence on him re-signing for the club?
MR: I spoke to people here that saw Jack playing last year, and I’ve seen him play a little bit too. I also made some enquiries to other people that have worked with him and know him at other clubs and there is definitely a player there with potential. Looking at Jack since he’s come back to training he can definitely play, he’s comfortable on the ball, he wants to play, he’s got a wand of a left foot – he can hit passes all over the park with it – which is something that’s very pleasing, especially for a centre back. We plan to strengthen up his physique a little, but in terms of a player with a bright future, he is definitely one I can see going far.
Barnet.com:Let’s talk about someone who describes himself as a ‘holding midfielder who likes to play the ball around’ – Ahmed Abdulla. He’s certainly had what one can describe as a ‘football upbringing’, coming through the ranks at both Arsenal and West Ham. Is he another player who you’ve been watching for a long time?
MR: Yes, he’s definitely someone who I knew of pretty well. He’s another player who it hasn’t really happened for him at West Ham, so he went on loan to a couple of clubs [Swindon and Dagenham & Redbridge]. Watching him in training, he’s a terrific football player. He wants to get on the ball, he wants to play it, he wants to pass it, and he’s quite clever and cute with his passing. I’m very excited about working with him and I think all the players around him have taken to him as well and see that he can play. He wants to play that sitting role where he can get the ball and give it to other players and he’s comfortable to do just that. Just in general another good football player who, again, can tackle. He likes to put his foot in and he’s not shy!
Barnet.com: Speaking about hard-tackling midfielders, let’s look at the next player you’ve brought in – Freddie Warren. He says he ‘likes a challenge’! Out of all of the signings he’s probably the youngest one at 19, and his career started off at Charlton, another one of your previous employers. So what can you tell the fans about Freddie that they, perhaps, don’t know yet?
MR: I’ve known Freddie a long time. He was an Academy player at Charlton [which Mark was overseeing during his time at the Addicks] and I’ve seen him develop over the years. He’s a whole-hearted player, Freddie. He’s someone who’s got a fantastic engine on him. He’s a real athlete. He really does like putting his foot in and he’s a strong, aggressive tackler. And he’s another one who’s going to benefit from being at Barnet, being involved with the First Team, and we hope that we can work on him, do some extra training with him to improve him in certain areas of his game. He could be a real dark horse for this team.
Barnet.com:Onto the very last one (for now!) – Olly Lee – someone who’s come in a few weeks ago and has stated he’s got big aspirations for his career and his time at the club. What can you tell us about Olly?
MR: Olly is a good-sized lad who can play a couple of roles across the middle of the pitch – he can sit, he can get on it and play, he likes to also get forward coz he can score goals [something we witnessed against Burnham Ramblers last weekend!]. He’s one that I feel can weigh-in with some goals this season, and I’m sure he will if he can get into the right areas. Again, another good football player and someone who can compete. He’s got that desire, as all of them have, to succeed and we need that hunger around the place.
Barnet.com:Talking about his goal scoring, this is something that a lot of Barnet fans noticed last year that most of the team’s goals came from up front and lay almost solely on the shoulder of Izale McLeod, with Ricky Holmes chipping in with a few…do you think Olly can be a type of midfielder who can give us another outlet for goals this year?
MR: Absolutely! That’s something that we’re going to be looking to work on with him, but to-be-honest, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t expect everyone to be chipping in with more goals this year! Your centre backs from set pieces, attacking full backs who should have opportunities to get forward, and of course players from the midfield upwards who you would expect to score goals. The more we can get everyone weighing in with goals the more it can only help the cause.
Barnet.com:With a lot of the players that you’ve signed, was it a case of tracking them for a while, or was it more a case of grabbing the opportunity to sign them if they had been released from their clubs?
MR: Well, when I was at Peterborough last year there were certainly a few of the players that were on their radar, and there were one or two that I know a couple of other clubs were trying to get a hold of too. So yes, there were definitely players that I know of that had been on the radar and fortunately for me and the club we’ve been able to get them in.
Barnet.com:Finally Mark, how are all the players settling in?
MR: [Smiles] I think they’ve all settled in really well. There’s a really good atmosphere about the place, the lads seem to be enjoying themselves, they’ve been enjoying the training and they’re all pretty receptive to what we’re trying to do here. It’s not been easy sessions. Most of the drills we’ve done have been done with a ball, but it’s been hard. But I think why that’s partly why they’ve enjoyed it! They’re not just going out running around. We want to try to keep that positive atmosphere up and it’s good that we’ve got some fresh faces. We’re trying to get some more faces in and hopefully that will happen soon. It’s looking like a bright future, if you like, and a new beginning for everybody.
] My pleasure.Smiles [MR: