Ahead of the weekend’s video interview with Barnet FC legend and title winner Gary Phillips I thought it the ideal time to look back at the biggest game in my opinion of Gary’s managerial career at Underhill. It was the first full season I followed the Bees and managed over 20 games, what a season though it was in a perverse kind of way, but more of that in another blog!
Let me paint the picture in a brief fashion, Barnet had been a nat’s whisker away from being expelled from the Football League after winning promotion to what is now League One for the first time in their history, the vote didn’t carry but the league gave all the players free transfers leaving the Bees with only a few contracted players, no money and no infrastructure off the pitch.
Step forward Gary Phillips, Ricky George, Stephen Glynne and later David Buchler who ensured I wasn’t about to see Barnet FC go the way of Maidstone Utd. But poor old Gary had a tough job getting together a squad to start the season, but start the season we did just miles behind the others in terms of fitness and organisation.
To cut a long story short the FA Cup was good to Barnet in 1993-94, a first round win over Carshalton Athletic took the Bees to Crawley Town in the second round. Being an all ticket game and unable to get to Underhill from Sevenoaks to get a ticket, a good friend of mine was able to get me one in the home end. On a bobbly pitch with nothing to lose the Bees had to work hard to defeat the part-timers, on loan Chelsea starlet Zeke Rowe put Barnet in front with an overhead kick before Carl Hoddle’s sweet sublime strike from all of 20 yards into the top corner, followed by the ‘Hoddle by name, Hoddle by nature’ quote from Clive Tyldesley and despite a late Crawley goal the Bees were into round three where the big boys come in.
And you knew what was coming! There it was Barnet vs Chelsea, Hoddle vs Hoddle and me vs my middle brother! Glenn of course was now in charge at Stamford Bridge and were not enjoying a great season at the time, Phillips’ Barnet still marooned at the bottom of the table but nothing to lose in this game. The tie was switched to Stamford Bridge with Underhill unable to hold any type of decent crowd figure with the restrictions imposed all season and off we headed in early January, in my opinion happy to keep the score down let alone anything else!
As it was Barnet defended resolutely throughout throwing themselves in front of every ball in front of Phillips but of course we all remember that in the final few minutes it was the Bees with perhaps the best chance of the game, Kelly Haag unable to get a touch on a Shaun Close cross which would have sent the Blues out of the cup, it definitely looked closer than it does on video now!
Phillips and Barnet celebrated at the final whistle, but reflection was short with Ray Clemence brought in after the game to assist Gary as a ‘general manager’. My middle brother, well he wasn’t a happy bunny on the way home that plucky little Barnet had held his team of superstars, I made sure I reminded him all the way home!
The replay went the way of Chelsea 4-0, but Barnet held firm for 30 minutes and were just starting to hear the Blues supporters beginning to show their frustration when the first goal went in, who knows what could have happened………..