By Graham Stack
JOHN Still is one of the most popular and likeable managers I’ve come across in football – and I’d back him to put my old club Barnet in the promotion frame this season.
Still returns to the north London club with ex-Bees favourite Darren Currie as his assistant. It’s a management team that will immediately have the hearts of the supporters at The Hive.
The 68-year-old has been around the block and back more times than most and has got all the t-shirts. He is proven, having won the National League three times before with Luton, Dagenham and Maidstone.
His style encourages exciting, attacking football – often direct, but very effective. He has teams well organised, sets them up to be difficult to break down, and makes them a threat from set-plays.
Still has always had an eye for a player and a reputation for giving young players opportunities. However, it’s the signings of his ex-Dagenham captain and central defender Craig Robson and goalkeeper Mark Cousins that were first on his list. Both players had exceptional seasons last campaign and, crucially, are players he knows he can trust.
A contrasting challenge to the one he had at Daggers, he will now have teams desperate to play at The Hive and turn over one of the league’s big boys and favourites to go up in their lovely stadium on their immaculate pitch.
Chairman Tony Kleanthous knows Still well from his previous spell at the club and I believe he will give him time and financial backing to get the club back into the Football League.
I’m sure Still’s passion, enthusiasm and desire to be successful will rub off on his players and see Barnet mount a serious challenge.
Meanwhile, my former Bees boss Martin Allen will be relishing the challenge of getting bookies’ favourites Chesterfield back into the EFL at the first time of asking.
The 52-year-old will know the expectation from the board and supporters will be promotion. He will need every bit of his vast experience, knowledge and know-how to do it, and he’ll identify the importance of a great start to the season for momentum and confidence.
The stench of relegation can hang around a club and a changing room for some time, and by the time everybody stops feeling sorry for themselves, it can be Christmas, by which time you are mid-table and too far away to mount a serious challenge.
Martin will have his players believe they will be crowned champions next April. This will be embedded the minute players walk in the building, and will grow over pre-season and after every victory.
He has already strengthened the spine of the team with goalkeeper Shwan Jalal, defender Michael Nelson and midfielder Curtis Weston.
The combination of players of this calibre being led by Martin Allen guarantees the Spireites will be contenders.