Barking’s Gardner not pleased FA Cup tie is first competitive game

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 September 2020

Barking striker Billy Jones goes into a challenge (Pic: Terry Gilbert)

Barking striker Billy Jones goes into a challenge (Pic: Terry Gilbert)


Barking manager Justin Gardner thinks it’s slightly disrespectful that they have to start the season with an FA Cup clash.

Barking's Michael Dixon goes up for a header (Pic: Terry Gilbert)Barking's Michael Dixon goes up for a header (Pic: Terry Gilbert)

The Blues welcome Isthmian League North outfit Heybridge Swifts to their new-look 3G pitch at Mayesbrook Park on Saturday for a preliminary round tie.

Although the boss is looking forward to getting back to competitive action he does feel the FA could have let them at least play a few league matches first.

He said: “I find it slightly disrespectful from the FA that they think non-league doesn’t care about the FA Cup, and I don’t understand why they couldn’t have done it two weeks’ time.

“Even if they made us play Saturday and Tuesday in the cup, at least then we would have had a few league games under our belts.

Barking's Michael Dixon holds off a challenge (Pic: Terry Gilbert)Barking's Michael Dixon holds off a challenge (Pic: Terry Gilbert)

“I’m looking forward to the FA Cup, but it is a shame it starts so early as you could be out before the league starts.”

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He added: “My only wish is to have a fully fit squad to choose from because as a manager you live and die by results as it’s your squad that you put together.

“I’ve got a bit of a headache for Saturday as we’ve got a lot of players coming back. But in terms of getting back to competitive football I can’t wait. I’m not a fan of pre-season, if I’m honest.”

Pre-season has seen a mixture of results and former Aveley manager Gardner added: “A lot of our main players have missed large chunks of pre-season due to injuries or having to work during Covid-19, so from that point of view it’s not been as good as I would have liked.

“The positives are Saturday just gone was the first time I got anywhere near close to my main players being on the pitch and playing. That was still with three or four out.

“I haven’t had the luxury of being able to use the whole squad, so just to cover us in games I’ve had to have players in, and in some cases those players have come in and taken a shirt, which is good.

“We’ve found a couple of gems, but overall not good, and I would have liked it to be smoother.”

He added: “On the other side of things when people were allowed to travel on holiday, for the first time in my management career I had to accept a player going away in pre-season as they didn’t have the opportunity to go before that.

“I’m sure I’m not the only manager in that position.”

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