By Suhana, George, Sybil, Jamila, Maicey and Rafael
Martin Allen is the manager of Barnet FC. As well as being Mr B-C’s favourite team, Barnet are currently the leaders of the Football Conference League. Allen knows how tough it is managing a professional football team, but how would he face up to the questions put by our Year 7 reporters? Suhanah, George, Sybil, Jamila, Maicey and Rafael spent a morning finding out…
Should young people consider going pro?
I would encourage young people to enter the footballing game because it is exciting and it gives you a rush! Trust me, after a few days, you still have that buzz and even now I still get excited every weekend. I would definitely encourage people of all ages to play football.
But isn’t it a big risk?
Yes... When I was told that I could never play football again, I felt I had nothing… I had to feed a family, pay taxes and put petrol in my car. Every year the football team would put money in my bank… but suddenly I couldn’t play football! What job would pay my bills?
What are the chances of making it in pro football?
The young Barnet team has just won the small league – they’re a great team. But out of those sixteen kids, only two or three of the young players will go on to play football professionally and those kids are the best in this area. So it’s a hard job. However, even though it may sound negative, I still think if you have talent you should definitely try to become one!
Did you always want to be a ‘Gaffer’ (manager)?
I used to run a youth football organisation. I started with 23 children and 1 member of staff but by the end I had 900 children and 27 staff full time! That gave me a fantastic grounding as I had to manage everything – the minibus, the insurance, the petrol – everything. But when I stopped being a professional footballer, I lost my sponsorship and I had to give it all up. So it was a struggle for me. I had to join as an apprentice manager… I worked for free! I had to prove that I could succeed in this new role. We HAD to win those matches.
So, Mr Allen what is your opinion on racism and sexism among your team and staff?
We have no tolerance for it! We have a female physiotherapist… If any of the players are sexist to her - they would be in my office straight away. Zero tolerance. We have black players and the same rules apply. We don’t tolerate any disrespect.
What else do you expect of your players?
Actually, at the start of the season, I asked them what they expected of me! They said honesty and leadership – they wanted clear boundaries and for me to be disciplined and to lead by example. I suppose I also expect teamwork and hard work – graft! I lead by example – I’m first here every morning and my players know that I graft. I’m proud that all the Barnet players work as hard as they do.
What do you think of biters and divers?
Absolutely zero tolerance! We play fair - we win fair! They would be off the pitch. Same as if they argue with the ref. In fact, one of my subs once kicked a ball away from a ref after a foul – I took him straight off (even though I’d just put him on). We play fair.
What would you do afterwards?
It’s unacceptable and they would be in big trouble. But I wouldn’t tell them off by shouting at them. I would sit them down and calmly ask them why they did it… I think that’s what works well.
What do you think about your nickname ‘Mad Dog’?
Well, I don’t mind people thinking I’m funny. But if I’m on holiday on the beach I don’t really want someone coming up to me and pointing in my face saying ‘MAD DOG MAD DOG!’ and that has happened… I suppose if people know me well enough to give me a nickname, then that’s a useful thing for someone in my job.
How did you feel about getting sacked by Gillingham?
Well… the man that hired me asked me to change the team… so I did! We won a lot of games… and then he said he didn’t like my changes and sacked me.
What is the difference between lower league and Premier League football?
Speed mainly. A player that plays for the premier league… He’s faster than a player that plays in my team… He’s faster, just a little bit better technically with the ball at his feet. As you go up, you became faster, stronger and - more importantly - most of those players are mentally stronger. They believe that they can play – they believe that they’re good… their work ethic is different. They got there because they have what it takes.
Mr Allen – thanks! And good luck taking Barnet up into the next league!