Tonight’s blog is another guest blog, I’ve been lucky people want to write for me during the difficult times we’re experiencing and this is the next one in line with some more to come.
Carla Devine is a Barnet fan, don’t worry not every guest piece comes in black and amber! This one is a story of following a non-league everywhere and I mean everywhere! She is also a contributor to the matchday programme at The Hive and this is her story:
My whole life revolves around Barnet FC. My first game was when I was 16 months old and I haven’t missed a game in two and a half years. Supporting Barnet is all my Dad’s fault. Despite being born and brought up in Leeds myself, because my Dad was born in Barnet and grew up supporting them, I inherited the gene. In my lifetime I’ve seen 2 promotions to the football league, although this has been outweighed by 3 relegations back to non-league. Non-league Barnet have taken me everywhere from now Premier League Sheffield United to League One Bristol Rovers and even Isthmian Premier Division Carshalton Athletic. It’s a journey like no other.
(War Memorial Sports Ground, home of Carshalton Athletic)
Back in the days when I was younger we didn’t go to as many home games as it’s a 400 mile round trip from Leeds but I have fond memories of many Northern away days, such as Morecambe and Accrington. A cold wind on the sea front as well as being dragged around this old bookstore in Morecambe and standing on that cold terrace in Accrington is something that defined my childhood. Games like this were a blessing for us, we could be back on our sofa in time for tea. Yet despite us coming from the opposite end of the country and not going as often, we always saw familiar faces and this to me is what makes non-league unique. You could be at a game anywhere from Dartford to Gateshead and there will always be the friendly faces you recognise and for my family I think that’s one of the reasons we became so hooked.
(With the famous Eric Morecambe statue on Morecambe sea front)
Fast forward to my teenage days I grew more of an interest and started begging my Dad to take us to every game (even all the home ones). Thankfully my Dad committed to the cause and by the time our next stint in non-league came, we were going to most games. I think this is when the uniqueness of non-league hit me. In one season you can travel anywhere from the bigger grounds like Lincoln City to the less developed clubs such as Hyde United. Another thing that struck me about non-league is that you have the opportunity to go to some more niche places. I’d never heard of Altrincham or Telford until we were playing them – to be honest I’d still probably be unable to place them on a map but at least I can say I’ve been there. Of course my teenage years also saw us become the first ever team to win the Conference for the third time in 2015. No matter what anyone says winning a title is a feeling like no other, regardless of what league it’s in. That season was unforgettable and we couldn’t stop coming back for more. During this time I also got to know more Barnet fans and became more involved with the club as a whole. This is another thing I think massively differentiates non-league from others, the personal level you can get to know the players and managers on and this too is a reason I became so enticed in the life of non-league.
(Altrincham Away in 2015)
In September 2018 my perspective of following Barnet religiously took a new turn as I moved down to London to start university. Although London was always my dream, my growing relationship with Barnet in the years prior to this made London more important to me. And I promise you, I will never take that lie in on the Saturday morning of a home game for granted. Unlike people might expect, I felt at ease with the move to London and the prospect of travelling to more games on my own. Travelling by train you are always bound to see some Bees fans and recently I have travelled on the minibus too which has allowed me to get to know more people. By this point non-league itself has changed too. Now you have the bigger teams such as Notts County and Yeovil in the mix as well as the smaller clubs like Chorley. Yet it’s also a better league than it used to be, it really can be anyone’s league and every game must be treated with respect.
Just last season we had a tremendous FA Cup run which saw us beat Sheffield United away and take Brentford to a replay after an amazing game. Not to mention our FA Trophy run too or the emphatic 4-0 win against AFC Fylde this season. But it has its lows too, a 3-0 loss to then bottom of the league Ebbsfleet on a cold Tuesday night or the exhausting 4-2 loss away at Halifax. Though being there to witness the lows definitely makes you appreciate the highs. Non-league is certainly an unpredictable place and following a non-league team around the country really is a rollercoaster ride.