With only the weekend (and a Monday!) separating us between now and the start of the 2012-2013 Season, we grab dynamic midfielder, Mark Byrne, to get his views on what lies ahead for The Bees.
Barnetfc.com: Welcome back Mark. It’s been a summer that probably didn’t last as long as you’d have liked (as with many of us!). How were the holidays? Get up to anything nice?
Mark Byrne: Yeah, I had a good summer, thanks. I went back to Ireland for a couple of weeks to see the family and went away for a bit on holiday too. But it was especially good to be back home as it’s been so long since I’ve been there, and get some rest after the mad, mad end of last season!
BFC: What do you do during the post-season? Do you have any training regimes you like to stick to?
MB: I usually go home and get some rest. Then after 2 or 3 weeks you start getting back into it again. You have your own programme and start getting your fitness back up. Then towards the end of your holidays you start to push on so you start getting prepared for pre-season. [*Smiles*] The horrible pre-season! [*Laughs*] No football player ever likes pre-season but it’s got to be done.
BFC: What’s the worst aspect about coming back and doing pre-season?
MB: The thought of knowing that you’re going to have to do some running! No, but it’s good to get back and see the new faces and the lads that were here before. We’ve got a good bunch of lads who have come in and everyone seems to be getting on together. But I don’t like the running…especially in some of the weather we’ve been having recently! We’re quite lucky in the Mark Robson’s come in and introduced us to a new way of training which involves much more ball work incorporated into out fitness, so that’s made things a lot more enjoyable.
BFC: You mention Mark Robson. He’s obviously one of the new faces to come into the club…
MB: Yeah, I’m really happy he’s come in. He’s changed a lot of the things we do. We have a more professional set-up, he wants us to play football, which is a good thing for me, he wants to get the ball down, he’s brought in his own team of staff as well and they have all been absolutely great too. Hopefully this year we’ll keep going and play some nice football and play our way out the league. Teams can do it as well – if you look at Crewe last year they played some really nice football and look where they are now. We want to play good football and not have to worry about a relegation battle like we did at the end of last 2 seasons that I’ve been here.
BFC: There seems to be lot more of a positive atmosphere this season than there was the last…
MB: Yeah, definitely. There’s more of a buzz about the place, I think. That’s all to do with the way the gaffer has prepared us, getting all the confidence back in the players. We had a tough season last year with new Managers coming in with a lot of changes. Through the summer we didn’t have a clue who the new gaffer was and we only found out it was Mark over the last couple of weeks-or-so, and then he’s come in and he’s got all the confidence back in all the lads and I’ve heard a lot of good stories about him as well. I know a few people who knew him and they’ve all said he’s a top bloke and a great coach.
BFC: Without giving too much away, what kind of manager is mark Robson? Rigid tactician or hand-around-the-shoulder type?
MB: A bit of both, really. He’s a real hands-on Coach. Some days we’ll be training and he’ll get involved. He wants to do the best for his players and get the best out of all of us, as he sees the potential in all of us and just wants us to play to our best.
BFC: Mark’s signed quite a few players and there’s been a real change from the squad that was here last season. From the players that were here last year, obviously you would have made a few friends, so are you disappointed to see some of them go or is that just football these days?
MB: Again a bit of both, really. I’m disappointed to see some of my mates go, but that’s football as well really. But I’m very happy with the players we’ve brought in. There is some real quality there. We’ve also brought in some top quality experienced players too, which I think is what we needed. Some of them actually knew each other from their times at other clubs together. [BFC: Does that help them settle?]. Maybe. But everyone just wants to get started with the season and do well. Everyone is gelling in really well together and everyone’s getting along, which is only good for the team.
BFC: You have now ended up being one of the more senior or experienced players. How does that feel?
MB: [*Laughs*] Yeah, I’m one of the more experienced players but I’m only young still! I just want to step up again this year and kick on and hopefully have a good season and see what happens from there, really.
BFC: Looking at what happened at the end of last season [the 2-1 away win at Burton Albion that kept The Bees up on the last day of the season], this is the first chance we’ve had to talk to you since it happened. You scored the first goal one the way to us winning the game – tell us about the day.
MB: On the morning of the game the lads were all very confident that we were going to stay up. Martin Allen came in and got all our confidence going. He knew what we were capable of doing. So it came down to that game. We got the early goal, then they got a goal and won the penalty. Luckily for us they missed, and as we came in for Half Time the gaffer had a go at some of the players, just to get them going again and we knew the other scores from the other games so we knew we had to win. We went out and tried to play our own game the second half and of course Hughesy scored the second goal and we were delighted with that.
BFC: When you scored, did you think “Right, it’s going to be our day”?
MB: Yeah, I was confident from the start that we were going to get a win or that results were going to go our way. I always say that the better side always stays up and I felt that, over the course of the season we were better than Hereford and Macclesfield.
BFC: What did it feel like afterwards to celebrate with all the fans?
MB: [*Smiles*] It was good. It was exactly like the year before! We brought a good crowd there and the fans that were there were excellent! We could here them from start to finish and they were definitely happy to stay up.
BFC: Looking forward to this season, you’ve got a completely clean slate. How do you think season is going to go?
MB: I just think we need to play the way the gaffer wants us to play. You never know what can happen, but we don’t want to be fighting a relegation battle again and everyone knows that as well. But I don’t think players are going to have that again this year – we’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We just wan to be comfortable enough and have a good enough season for ourselves and the fans.
BFC: What would you say to people who think that, in order to succeed in League 2, every team has to have all their players over 6 foot and smash the opposition off the ball?
MB: Look, there are some teams in this league that are different and you’ve got to change your style of play when you come up against teams like that. It’s more-than-likely going to happen this year but we just need to focus on our game and make sure we play the way we want to play this year – get the ball down, pass it round – and hopefully we can do that and be successful with it.
BFC: We don’t want to put you on the spot too much…but predictions for this year for Barnet FC?
MB: [*Smiles*] I have it in my head, but I’ll keep it to myself!
BFC: Fair enough. Moving away from football, have you been watching any of the Olympics?
MB: Yes! I’ve been watching the Olympics non-stop! I’ve been watching everything I can and I think it’s the first season that I’ve not kept an eye on any of the pre-season football results. I haven’t watched Sky Sports News for a while. Only the Olympic channels! And Ireland got the first gold medal yesterday with Katie Taylor in the boxing so me and my family were thrilled to bits with that one!
BFC: Great stuff. Thank you for talking with us, Mark and we wish you well for the season ahead.
: Thank you.MB