Despite signing off the season with an impressive 2-0 win over champions Sutton United, Barnet have endured a nightmare 2020/21 campaign.
The Bees have gone from Play-Off contenders to rock bottom of the National League with the only saving grace the avoidance of relegation as funding issues forced the early curtailment of National League North and South.
While the entire non-league pyramid has suffered the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Barnet appear to have struggled more than most over the past year or so.
With the virus spreading and Government restrictions in place, the National League decided to end the 2019/20 campaign early, determining final league positions on a Points-Per-Game system.
It saw Barnet jump from mid-table to seventh meaning then manager Darren Currie and his squad were given a Play-Off lifeline and an unexpected shot at Football League promotion.
As coronavirus continued to bring uncertainty, the playing budget was subsequently slashed by 50% last summer with Currie replaced by ex-Newport and Hereford boss Peter Beadle.
Barnet won four out of their opening seven games under Beadle, including an FA Cup victory over League One Burton Albion, before going on a nine-game winless run.
With the side sitting 20th in the table and having not won in the league since October 13th, former Solihull Moors boss Tim Flowers was tasked with turning fortunes around.
However, Flowers’ tenure was nothing short of disastrous – suffering 10 defeats in 11 league games before being relieved of his role in March as Barnet slipped down to 22nd in the table.
In a Q&A published on the official Barnet website last month, chairman Tony Kleanthous reflected on the season and the direct impact coronavirus had on the squad.
“We were doing ok and beat Burton in the FA Cup when coronavirus hit us hard with our manager and a number of our players affected,” Tony Kleanthous said.
“The whole squad had to go into quarantine as per the National League protocol at the time (it has since changed) which prohibited any training.
“We ended up having four Covid outbreaks over the Autumn and early Winter as different members of our squad were infected at different times making training and match preparation impossible.”
Kleanthous also backed Flowers heavily in the January window, recruiting nine new faces for a covid-stricken side that had already been depleted by the departure of a number of first-team players in the summer due to the budget cut.
“It’s been really frustrating to see the group of players we had last year playing at much higher levels while we’ve struggled to replace them,” Barnet fan Oscar Cabrera told London Football Scene.
“Ricardo Santos and Simeon Akinola were both in League Two this season while David Tutonda was playing in League One at Bristol Rovers.
“Mauro Vilhete also came back here with Dagenham and Redbridge and looked a class above what we had out there.
“You look at the standard of players that we got rid of, compared to who we have now and they are on a different level. It’s really disappointing.”
Following Flowers’ departure, Gary Andersen took interim charge before former AFC Wimbledon coach Simon Bassey provided a bit of stability on his arrival at The Hive in April.
But despite winning five of his thirteen games in charge since taking the reins, Bassey still has his reservations over the standard of the squad available.
Speaking to London Football Scene after Barnet’s 4-1 home defeat to Notts County, Bassey said; “I haven’t come here to come third bottom of the Conference and have an open-top bus parade.
“I want to get out of this league. This club wants to get out of this league. We have to do it together and it’ll be a test to see if these players can play at the level required.
“Training time is low, training numbers are low. We’ve got boys who can’t finish training sessions and we’re asking them to play games. So it’s difficult and we’ve got to work to try and eradicate that issue.
“There’s no point coming in and saying everyone and everything is brilliant. We’ve got work to do and we’ve got to see who’s going to come with us and who’s not.”
Barnet’s struggles this season have been down to a multitude of reasons but hopefully with a bit of stability and consistency, Bassey and the club’s hierarchy can use this summer to rebuild and provide a foundation for a brighter future.
Photo of Simon Bassey provided courtesy of Barnet photographer Ben Fullylove.