Date: 30th August 2007 at 9:51pm
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Paul Fairclough has made a double midfield signing ahead of tomorow’s transfer deadline.

Veteran Paul Smith has been captured by Fairclough whilst the boss has also signed Charlton’s teenage starlet Josh Wright on loan.

Fairclough has been under pressure to bolster the Barnet squad with the transfer deadline dooming, and more so with the injury and suspension crisis that has hit the club this early in the season.

Smith is a 35 year old central midfielder who has made over 500 appearances in the Football League with a number of clubs. He has most recently been on the books with Torquay United, whom he joined in January this year as he failed to help them avoid relegation, although proved to be a sizeable prescence in the midfield.

He originally began his footballing career with Southend, who he turned professional with but after limited chances to play at Roots Hall he moved onto Brentford, following a loan spell with Dover Athletic.

In August 1997, he linked up with ex-Bee Andy Hessenthaler at Gillingham where he enjoyed the longest spell of his career, making around 400 appearances. He was chosen as player of the season four times during his spell there, as well as captaining the side. He ended up leaving Preistfield in unusual circumstances, a dispute with the chairman over wages he had not been payed, reportedly and when they got relegated from the Championship to League One he left. Two years ago, he joined Walsall although had three loan spells with the Gills again before joining Swindon.

Only last year was he playing with lowly A.F.C. Sudbury but returned to the Football League with Torquay mid-way through last season.

Smith now joins the Bees to add competition to the midfield, possibly to do a similar job as Hessy did when he was here, except this time with promotion in mind, not with the mindset of avoiding relegation.

Meanwhile Fairclough’s other signings, Wright, will probably excite supporters much more, especially on the pitch. The 17 year old is a bright prospect in English football, having been brought through Charlton’s academy successfully and five months ago was rewarded by Alan Pardew with a two-year professional contract, handed the number 32 shirt and trains with the Addick’s first team, including ex-Bee Dean Sinclair who of course moved the other direction this summer.

Wright has signed an initial one-month loan deal, to easy the suspensions and injuries to first-team players Barnet currently have, although Fairclough probably sees this with a view of a long-term loan deal, possibly for the entire season if he impresses. In fact it was Ian Hendon who scouted the highly-rated Wright during a reserve game and his ability has proved through the caps he has earned at England U18 international level, as well as – earlier in his career – the under 16s and under 17s for England, having won 15 caps.

Charlton’s website reports says he ‘boasts a fine range of passing and, coupled with great vision and awareness, the playmaker is a man upon whom teammates can rely to crack open opposition defences,’ and from that, he seems the ideal person to act as the playmaker in the midfield, with the attacking-minded Max Porter being given permission to roam like he did so well for Bishop’s Stortford.

When he played for Charlton’s under 18s last season, he netted once in 13 appearances, whilst gave a similar return for the reserves: twice in 12 appearances. Not a bad return goals-wise for a midfielder who bases his game on creating chances for other players…

He also featured for the Championship side in pre-season.

So with the midfield seemingly now sorted – with this duo meaning Barnet have five central midfielders – wide players covered with four available in the squad, two goalkeepers, and the defence strengthened with that triple signing last weekend: two full-backs for both the right and the left and five centre-halves, Barnet fans are crying out for one more man to be added; a big frontman who can perform with Ben Wright-type role he did in pre-season before joining Lincoln with the club’s strikers consisting of current first-choice Adam Birchall and Anthony Thomas, both of whom are small and pacy with a good strike along with Giuliano Grazioli, the natural finisher in the side, and Liam Hatch, the endless worker who contributes excellently to team play but can’t find the back of the net.

Apart from another striker, the squad has now got some good depth, though whether the ‘strength’ in depth is there, we’ll be unable to judge until they put their boots on and get onto that pitch.