Barnet fan Oliver Miller got the chance of a lifetime on Saturday when he was invited inside the inner sanctum of The Hive to witness exactly what goes on behind-the-scenes during a Bees match.
16-year-old Olly was last week selected by Martin Allen as the winner of our Ask Martin Q&A competition, having impressed the manager with his range and depth of questions, including:
1. What has been the highest moment during your career at Barnet?
2. Equally, what has been the lowest moment?
3. Who is the best player that you’ve ever managed at Barnet?
4. What did you say in the half-time team talk against Burton on the last day of the 2011/12 season?
5. Do you prefer Underhill or The Hive?
6. Describe how it feels to be saved from relegation on the last day of the season.
As his prize Olly was given the chance to meet the manager in his office, be introduced to the squad inside the dressing room ahead of the game, sit in on the pre-match team talk, help the team warm up on The Hive pitch and take his seat on the Barnet bench during the game before listening to the post-match debrief.
Reflecting on his day, Olly admitted that it had been better than even he could have imagined:
“When I first got here I was taken through to meet Martin in his office. I’ve never met Martin before and was a little bit nervous but he is a really nice guy and made me feel very welcome. It was great to finally meet him.
“He told me to sit on his sofa and decide exactly what I’d like to do with my day before getting Tom to write it up on the whiteboard.
“I was a little bit cheeky with some of my requests but it was great to be able to plan out the day myself which I definitely wasn’t expecting!”
Olly was then taken into the dressing room to meet the players before having his photo taken with the entire squad and listening to Martin’s pre-match team talk.
“It was so enjoyable being in there. All the players were getting ready and I was able to just mingle in amongst them and have a chat with some of them.
“I thought that Martin’s team talk was straight to the point. He certainly doesn’t mince his words and likes to get his point across quickly. It was great to be able to hear exactly how he talks to the players.”
After getting changed to go out on the pitch alongside the rest of the squad, Olly assisted player-coach Graham Stack in his warm-up before taking his place on the Barnet bench for the match itself, something he says he found rather different to sitting in his normal seat:
“You do get a completely different perspective from the bench. When you are pitch-side you really do get to see all of the players’ individual battles and challenges. You also get to see how vocal the players are on the pitch which was really interesting.
“After the game Martin brought me into the dressing room, got the players together and said that we played really well. He went around each player individually and gave them a summary of their performance, so there were plenty of positives to take from the game even though we lost it.”
Having witnessed Barnet’s final preparations for the new season at close hand, Olly admits that he is now more excited than ever about the new campaign and even more optimistic that it can be one for the Bees to remember:
“Not many people get the opportunity to do everything that I was able to do so I certainly won’t be forgetting it.
“I think we’re in a much better position than we were at the beginning of the season last year and I’m very excited for the new season. Seeing it from a different perspective inside the dressing room has actually made me even more confident.”