Barking boss Gardner revealed disappointment of being in the Isthmian North

Barking striker Charlie MacDonald turns away after scoring against VCD Athletic in pre-season

Barking striker Charlie MacDonald turns away after scoring against VCD Athletic in pre-season - Credit: Terry Gilbert

Barking manager Justin Gardner openly revealed his disappointment at being back in Isthmian League North after the FA's restructure of non-league football.

The Blues have been in the Isthmian South Central, but it was decided that they would revert back during the shuffling of leagues. 

The boss knows just how tough the North is and believes there will be no easy games with most sides expecting to be battling for promotion. 

“'I'd be happier if we'd stayed in the other league, the Isthmian North is frightening, I don’t think I've ever seen so many teams signings players from higher levels – some from two or three levels higher,” Gardner said. 

“That shows you how strong the league is and not messing there is 10-15 teams that will be competing for the league this season. 

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“It’s going to be a tough season, I want us to be competitive, and to be in and around it really. We just need to take each game as it comes.

Eyes on the ball for Barking's Flavio Jumo

Eyes on the ball for Barking's Flavio Jumo - Credit: Terry Gilbert

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, I'm very disappointed, I wanted to stay in the South Central. The club is very happy to be back in the North, but in the North you never get a break, every week is a derby. 

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“That is good for spectators, but it’s not good for managers, every game you have to be at it. There will be one or two games when you’re missing players but you’ll be dropping points when that happens unless you got a squad full of quality and depth.” 

Barking have recruited well and signed big names themselves in the form of former Leyton Orient duo Elliott Omozusi and Charlie MacDonald to name a few. 

“What I set out to do during lockdown was look at where players live, trying to bring in players that are close as possible to Barking Football Club, and out of the 16 players we’ve signed only five of them don’t live local. Two of them live across the road from the club," added Gardner.

“That was a big selling point, players we’ve got had offers from higher levels, but we said you don’t have to travel and that helped me massively. 

“In the past I have signed players that I feel are good but they might live an hour or an hour and a half away. Financially it’s probably not worth their while.”

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