Young gun Ross Eames plots Barnet's rise after different path to the dugout
No one can doubt that Ross Eames is a man with an eye for detail. When the Telegraph photographer asks the Barnet head coach to pose for pictures in front of the magnetic tactics board in his office, on which the starting line-up for his team’s League Two encounter with Swindon Town is carefully laid out in their positions, he springs up and rapidly re-arranges the formation. Which suggests he is concerned that his rival manager might look at the picture in order to glean information about how Barnet intend to play the match. “Well, I know I would,” he smiles. “Every time.” Eames is an unusual presence on the touchline of a Football League club. For a start, at 32, he is younger than three members of the Barnet first-team squad. Moreover, unlike them, he has never played the game beyond turning out for his school team. An international gymnast in his youth (though due to dodgy knees he has not done a standing somersault for 10 years), he studied sports coaching at university before rapidly making his way up through football’s academy system. After a brief spell as caretaker manager in 2016, he found himself placed in permanent charge of Barnet in May. It is some progress. Not that he sees himself as representing an advance guard for the new way. It's been a tough start to the season for Eames and Barnet, they've not won in five league and cup games, including a 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat at Brighton Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA “I think this old school/new school thing is a myth,” he says. “There’s loads of different ways to skin a cat. The way I do things suits me; for someone else it might not work. Yeah, my background’s different. But at the end of the day it’s not about me. It’s about making this club a success. The direction you come from in achieving that is irrelevant. As long as you do.” A hint of the way Eames does things is evident in the list of fines pinned to the wall outside the manager’s office at the club’s smart new Hive stadium. There are dozens of edicts, ranging from “eating in the physio’s room: £5” to “not doing a sit and reach test: £10”, all of which imply he expects high standards of personal responsibility from his players. Not least in the way they perform on the pitch. “The biggest thing for me is every player has to work hard, battle to win first and second balls,” he says. “When they have possession, then I do like my teams to play. But how they play depends on the moment. If we can’t play round then we play through and if we can’t play through then we play over the top. My philosophy is very simple: don’t over-complicate.” Eames is a big admirer of former Argentina boss Marcelo Bielsa, currently coach at Lille Credit: Ricardo Mazalan/AP Like Mauricio Pochettino, working just down the road at Wembley, Eames admits to being an avid admirer of the Argentine coach, Marcelo Bielsa. “I really like the way his teams press, the approach he has to suffocate opponents in their own half,” he says. “And we’re on the right path here. We played Swansea in pre-season and really pushed them, didn’t give them an inch.” Although he has not yet followed his tactical mentor’s habit of four-hour press conferences (“I prefer to keep that side of things as brief as possible,” he smiles) he has put in place a Bielsa-style regime at Barnet, out on the training pitch every day, working relentlessly on team shape and tactical flexibility. In truth, it is a methodology that has yet to translate to consistent success: including cup ties, Barnet have lost their past four fixtures. “Really tight games, three 1-0 defeats, two of the losses against higher-league opposition,” he says. “But no doubt it’s been a tough couple of weeks. You have to learn from it. There’s always a way to make it better.” Aged 32, Eames is younger than three of his first-team squad Credit: Geoff Pugh One thing he has not done in the run of defeats is shout at his players. That, he says, would be wholly counter-productive. “I am a thinker, very obsessive about how I want things done, not someone to go in and rant and rave,” he says. “I can be authoritative, yeah. But for me the most important quality is clarity: get your message across quickly and clearly. While you need to make sure it’s honest, the tone of the feedback needs to be sensitive to the player. It doesn’t work if all you have is the hairdryer.” He appreciates, however, that he needs to return to winning ways quickly. As is demonstrated in the pictures of Neymar, Mesut Ozil and David Luiz photographed outside the main entrance that decorate the walls of the Starbucks franchise in the stadium, this is not a club these days lacking in ambition. “People think of Barnet as Underhill, Stan Flashman, Barry Fry, all that,” Eames says. “Sure, it’s a club full of history, but now we’re evolving. Look around you. Everything we have here is Championship standard. Brazil, Germany, Sweden have all trained here before playing at Wembley. “The only way we can go is up, what the chairman has created here in terms of facilities and squad, there’s no excuses.” And the young, cerebral, career coach pauses for a moment before adding: “Doesn’t matter what my background is, if I don’t get the best out of this I’ll have failed, no doubt about that.” England players from the lower leagues . . .