The Thursday Preview: Barnet Vs Chesterfield
My first memory of him was as a QPR player, lunging in horrendously on Alan Hansen in a Milk Cup Semi Final at Anfield: “I lifted him about six feet in the air on the edge of their 18 yard box in front of a packed end of R’s fans! Needless to say, I got another booking!”
Allen was hewn from different stone than his calmer cousins, Paul, Bradley and Clive, and confrontation has been a recurring theme throughout his time in English football. A man who proudly boasts of signing Sam Sodje after seeing the defender perform an on-pitch tracheotomy on an opposing forward would never be shy and retiring. Ask Milan Mandarić, at odds with the Reading born man after failing to agree on the signings of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Derek Riordan for Leicester; ask referee Mr. Stretton after an astonishing display of caterwauling on the touchline in a Millwall v Reading season opener saw Allen banned to the stands; ask Cheltenham nightclub bouncer Garry Saintil, who accused Allen of racial abuse and “do you know how much I earn?” style proclaiming in 2009.
Well don’t ask Saintil because charges were dropped. Still, Cheltenham did not see fit to reinstate Allen following that last incident and he has been out in the cold since – that is until a recent return to the Loft in a part time capacity prompted eyebrows to be raised at the nature of his working relationship with Neil Warnock. Few reports have emanated from west London of that unholy tie-in and now Allen has taken up the cudgel again, taking Overground and the Northern Line to his managerial alma mater, Barnet.
Allen did well at Underhill before, building a team from scratch after the departure of Peter Shreeves and laying the groundwork for his predecessor of this week, Paul Fairclough to buzz the Bees back into the League. Before that, he had tightened up a flimsy Reading defence that had suffered under the Alan Pardew-John Gorman management team – he would be within his rights to claim much credit for engineering that club’s move up the leagues but his direct boss was less grateful; dispensing of his services soon after promotion to the Championship was obtained.
We know him best via that FA Cup dominated spell at another set of Apidae: he took Brentford to the fifth round of that famous old competition twice, studding that journey with a plethora of media appearances. That he cited a lack of ambition before hot footing it to the Great Satan that is MK Dons reflects very badly on the man though. Then, tangling with the aforementioned Serbian American in the East Midlands was no more sensible a move before he got into that spot of bovver with the Gloucestershire police.
From afar, he appears to be a hyperactive, pent up ball of energy – determinedly ambitious but often unable to stop and think. Mike Jennings, a Senior Staff writer for PC Pro, spoke to me of sitting opposite Allen on the train once: at the time, engrossed in a training manual that he hoped to sell and running ideas past his son, the material was replete with fancy graphs and charts and Dad was asking his boy to come up with a more technical word for “attacking”.
Tony Kleanthous, one of League 2’s more visible chairpeople, has admitted that hiring this old stager is a last throw of a very loaded dice – Barnet’s position is almost as parlous as that of the one team below them, Stockport County. The Bees are only three points behind Burton but the Brewers have four games in hand. Despite a seasoned strike force of Izale McLeod and Steve Kabba, results have generally been abysmal, culminating in Tuesday’s 1-0 reverse at Aldershot.
That a Chesterfield side cruising to promotion are tomorrow’s opponents does not bode well. Last Friday’s season defining 5-0 win over Rotherham is already in the pantheon of great Spireites matches and this came hot on the heels of another hiding of a promotion rival in Wycombe Wanderers. Millers manager Ronnie Moore said that his side, including our recent Monday profile subject Andy Warrington, made 35 year old striker Jack Lester look like Alfredo Di Stefano and his exasperation was warranted given it was to be his last match in charge. For all the plaudits heaped on Lester, it’s actually been Craig Davies who has been the star man for Chesterfield recently – his five goals in as many games have put the Derbyhire side 16 points clear of fourth.
With the often equally chippy John Sheridan patrolling the opposing dig out, there could be fireworks in the technical area but there can surely be no other outcome than an away win.