Expert view on Portsmouth coach Simon Bassey: Barnet thought they'd struck gold and the Millwall man he could bring with him

Simon Bassey has joined Pompey as a first-team coach.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 4:55 am

We caught up with Will Evans, former press officer and commentator at the Bees, to get the lowdown on the new member of Danny Cowley’s backroom staff...

First of all, what were the initial thoughts when Simon Bassey was appointed boss amid a really tough season?

The concern was whether Barnet could attract any sort of creditable candidate. They were bottom of the league and looked like the season was going to peter out because it'd been decided there was going to be no relegation from the National League.

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The general feeling among fans was who would want to take over this poisoned chalice? They were not going to get any investment because there was no reason to invest with relegation off the table.

The general consensus was no-one had really heard of him bar a few AFC Wimbledon followers saying he'd done a good job as a coach there.

Did he quickly make an impression at Barnet?

He made an incredible impression. He had no players of any appeared quality given how the season had progressed.

Simon Bassey. Picture: George Wood/Getty Images

However, he seemed to take those players to another level. He brought a bit of pride and desire after the team had waned, everyone looked so down. He re-energised the side.

There was no lightbulb moment. It took until quite near the end of the campaign when I started to think he was a manager you'd be afraid to lose.

You often get a new manager bounce and the jury was out whether he was the man to oversee a whole rebuild.

But towards the end of the season, Barnet drew 2-2 at Torquay before beating Maidenhead and then champions Sutton on the final day.

Sam Skeffington impressed at Barnet on loan from Millwall after being signed by Simon Bassey. Picture: Alex Burstow/Getty Images

Then you started thinking to yourself: "He is building some momentum and delivering results beyond the players he's working with".

What were the key differences Bassey made at Barnet?

He never necessarily focused on the creative elements but made Barnet much harder to beat.

They instantly were more resilient after his arrival. There were quite a few games with clean sheets and that bred confidence the team wasn't so porous.

Then you started to see the attacking players who'd previously looked devoid of confidence. They took on a new lease of life.

Bassey also brought in a couple of loan players, which not many people expected at all. The squad was threadbare and Sam Skeffington, who arrived from Millwall, had a level of quality above the others.

So after the final-day win over Sutton, Barnet fans were feeling positive. What was the overall reaction when you found out Bassey was leaving?

We felt like we'd potentially struck gold with an unknown name and were optimistic about what was to come.

There was certainly disappointment when Bassey announced he was leaving. I know social media is a dangerous barometer, but fans felt the club had ample opportunity to tie him down to a new deal.

It had been a little while since it'd become apparent he was a good candidate to keep the role.

After his final post-match interview, there was a vibe his future hadn't been fully resolved and gave people the impression his future could have been sorted a lot sooner.

After such a terrible season, it was another blow and didn't take much for supporters to be irked.

When you saw Bassey taking up a role at Pompey, were there any surprises?

There was some expectance that it wasn't a bad position to take.

Pompey are in a good position with Danny Cowley in charge and they're likely to be challenging near the top of League One again.

But there is a feeling he is just going to be a first-team coach and Barnet might have been a really good opportunity for Bassey to carve out a managerial career in his own right.

There was a little bit of a surprise he wasn't keen to take that as there's not a great deal of managerial opportunities out there, so coaches are usually keen to cling onto it.

Is there any player you think Bassey could raid from Barnet?

It's not the greatest of Barnet squads!

Sam Skeffington did look so impressive on loan and he's available on a free transfer because Millwall have released him.

There is potential for him to be a low-budget option because he's 20 and has potential.

Harry Taylor, whose brother Jack has been successful at Peterborough, had injuries at bad times. He was exceptional a couple of seasons ago so he'd be another but I wouldn't expect Bassey will be coming back to Barnet for a lot of players.