Underhill Stadium, the home of Barnet FC from 1907 until 2013. And until last week a derelict arena unused and unloved ready for demolition. A spiritual home for many, escape from the fast lane of life and a place to meet friends and share a beer. As you will see from my picture contributors below, the dismantling of Underhill is well underway.
My first trip to Underhill was in 1993, months after my team Maidstone Utd had folded as a Football League club. The first person I encountered selling a fanzine called ‘Two Together’ was a certain John Cosgrove, soon to become a friend over the years. After directions of where to enter, I ended up with my brother and one friend on the West Bank. A 3-1 win over Scarborough with ex-Stone Tony Sorrell notching the second goal, watching some expansive football played and I was hooked! I went again against Lincoln this time on my own, and that was it, Barnet became my team.
I went through the turbulent summer of ’93 where there was very nearly no club left to support, that following season I gave up playing and saw 20 games home and away. Others will have longer made memories than me, but plenty has happened in my time! From that summer of Gary Phillips, Ricky George and David Buchler saving the club, Ray Clemence as manager, signing Dougie Freedman and making an £800,000 profit on the striker the following season, that’s not a bad start! The arrival of Tony Kleanthous on the scene as chairman, two play offs under John Still, relegation after the disaster that was Tony Cottee, promotion under Paul Fairclough with one of the most exciting Barnet teams I’ve seen, so much more under one roof.
But while Underhill was tight, compact, our home, it was never fit for League football with the constant changing of guidelines and rules. It was loved with it’s slope, friendliness of the place, I took numerous people to games and plenty went again, something dragged you back time and again.
I took everyone from my wife to work colleagues to my mum and enjoyed hospitality in the Durham suite, as match-ball sponsors and as an Xmas present, shirt sponsored Nicky Bailey, Ashley Carew and Neil Bishop but that is topped by Edgar Davids, I really don’t think I’m going to beat that! Edgar Davids, yeah he was at Barnet, it’s even in the history books.
Over the years I’ve come to meet and know some wonderful people, lots have become good friends, some attended my wedding reception and even travelled down to Sussex from Barnet for my 40th birthday party, you know who you are Tony ‘Reckless’ Hammond, Lena Hammond, Pete Williamson and Janet Matthewson!
The Hive is a wonderful venue and will serve Barnet FC well in competing with more established clubs in the Football League providing relegation is avoided this season. It will never replace Underhill and nor would anyone expect it to, but as you go to new grounds around the League, you know that club is surviving better in a purpose built stadium ready for the 21st century and whilst Underhill had so much character, there was not a chance it could sustain Barnet as a Football League club.
So to memories, well some are mentioned above, but others, thumping Blackpool 7-0 in Cottee’s first game in charge, the 3-1 win over Halifax which sent us back to the Football League, 3-0 down at half time against Woking in the FA Cup to eventually draw 4-4, beating Plymouth 2-1 in the League Cup setting up a trip to Manchester United in the next round, many more I’m sure others can recollect too.
(Courtesy of Pete Williamson)
The last action of Underhill, Jake Hyde’s winner and Graham Stack’s penalty save in front of a full house, a fitting end for the old girl. I’ve managed to obtain a few pictures of the days before the bulldozers moved in, and the demolition in progress, for me it’s Farewell Underhill, thanks for the memories.
(Courtesy of John Antoniou)
(Courtesy of George Greenfield)
(Courtesy of @ks_mikey) Follow @ks_mikey on Twitter