Guest blog 2: Lucy’s story

Easter Monday

This the second guest blog I’ve asked someone to write just to change things up a little and to hear from other people instead of just me! This one is from Bees fan Lucy Waldon, I was going to post it later this week but as you read you will see why Easter Monday is a memory for her and the reason why it’s gone up today:

Why Barnet?

I remember going through primary school and pretending to support whatever team was popular at the time, as everyone did, to make friends – and I look back and laugh, because I couldn’t think of anything worse than supporting Tottenham (I think my dad would have actually disowned me if he knew). But it got to secondary school and university and for the best part of a decade, I often got asked that question – why Barnet? It was usually accompanied by laughs, and questions like “who?” or “what league are they in?”

Growing up in Essex, my local teams were probably West Ham or Dagenham & Redbridge, maybe even at a push, the likes of Southend and Colchester United. I was a Brentwood girl and my dad was from East London, more specifically Barking… but all of his family were Arsenal (except my [step] Grandad, who was Fulham). My mum’s from Birmingham, but none of her family were Blues – they were all Villa – but of course, they’re not blessed with ‘good’ teams up that way! I guess when I think about it properly, I should have been Arsenal…

My dad went to Highbury as a boy and continued going for many years after that. I remember vividly him telling me about the time he was unable to get a ticket and to ensure he got his football fix, he went to Barnet instead. I believe his grandad or great-grandad used to play in goal for the Bees, so in hindsight, it was only natural for him to head to Underhill. He was quite quickly hooked and to cut a long story short, I went to my first game in the 1993-94 season. I’m told it was a 3-2 win over Hartlepool – not that I remember much about it. Apparently, I asked, ‘when will it be half time?’ and ‘when can we go home?’ – clearly not an immediate fan! But he persevered and took me again, countless times. Obviously, with the bribe of free food! I used to love visiting Mr Nut and his cart for chocolate raisins at half time, in later years, Opal Fruits from the snack bar under the Main Stand – and better still, our lunchtime tradition of visiting The Green Dragon pre-match during my uni days.

Lucy's Underhill

Eventually, I was bought a season ticket and we were Main Stand regulars – Block C, Row H, Seats 3 & 4, at Underhill, of course. The first full season I remember vividly was 2003-04, the year before we went up. I didn’t have a season ticket that year, but went to every match. Dad bought me a season ticket for that championship-winning campaign and all my favourite football memories stem from that year and from Underhill. I had a season ticket for the subsequent years, until we left Underhill for The Hive – I even went to the University of Hertfordshire, so that I could still watch my beloved Bees and not be too far from home (family have always been the most important).

Lucy at The Hive

Unfortunately, and sadly, things change. People change. Interests change. My dad was never a fan of The Hive – he thought it was a mission to get to, over-priced and soulless. A lot of the people we used to sit with and became friends with didn’t make the move – and we ended up only going to a handful of games. As his health started deteriorating, football became less of a priority, less important. Our last game together was Easter Monday, 2016. We played Luton and won 2-1 – a John Akinde 96th minute penalty, no less. His colleague/client Andy is a Hatters fan and he was our chauffeur for the day – but we all sat in the home end together. When we won in the final minute, we were worried we wouldn’t get a lift home! My dad sadly passed away that May, and I soon realised that there was more to life than football. I went to a few games with my mum, and a couple on my own, but it wasn’t the same. In fact, my last Barnet game was Leyton Orient away (January 2017) and I actually ended up having a panic attack en route. For me, it was no longer fun and the sole point of going to football had gone.

18 months later and I had my little boy and found myself moving to Milton Keynes. I’ll never give them my money, mind. I still follow the Bees but from afar but not with as avid an interest as I once did. Interestingly, on our estate, there are several other Barnet fans – not least, our old groundsman Wes, who I’ve kept in touch with – and there’s two weeks difference between our little ones! I am adamant I will take Alfie to The Hive one day, so he can get a taste of live football and re-live my childhood – but for the time being, he’s happy watching on TV. I’ve got him chanting “Bees” and I’ve made him wear my scarf.

Plus, all my memorabilia is still at my mum’s – about seven or eight shoeboxes full of programmes and other memorabilia, as well as copies of all my by-lines (including work for Four Four Two and World Soccer Magazine). It will be great to look back at it all one day. This also remains the piece of writing I’m most proud of – and I still can’t read it without getting emotional. So many memories, good and bad, happy and sad, all brought together.

I laugh when I see people bang on about supporting your local team. If I had, things would have been very different……….

As good as it got for Maidstone United

Stones 1

As you learnt a couple of blogs ago, my non-league footballing education started with Maidstone United and this memorable season was not far short of ending in perfection. Here’s the story from my eyes…..

Cast your minds back to the late 1980’s, a time when automatic promotion from non-league’s top tier into the Football League became a reality. Today, there are two promotion places with increased clamour for a third place in line with the full EFL.

Maidstone Utd were the second club to benefit from that automatic promotion, a year after Scarborough became the first side to escape their non-league roots by this method, winning the division by eight points. Just twelve months earlier the Stones had sold their London Road ground and upped sticks to Dartford’s Watling Street abode. A title winning season was secured by manager John Still having spent a few quid and Maidstone were heading onwards and upwards as club.

This was to be the first time I would encounter what can be classed as non-league ‘royalty’ in Still and a man who cropped up time and time throughout my football watching life.

Division Four as it was known then, League Two it is now, promotion didn’t come easy though as Football League clubs weren’t convinced their temporary home in Dartford wouldn’t be suitable and up to standard for league football, but chairman Jim Thompson ensured Watling Street was going to be compliant. That was then rubber-stamped, and all systems go for what was to be a memorable first campaign.

A majority of the squad who were part time in the Conference stepped up to be full time professionals, added to with the likes of Karl Elsey, Steve Galliers, Graham Pearce, Paul Rumble, Warren Barton and later Nicky Johns. Already at the club and making their mark in the short lived years to come were the likes of Mark Beeney, Steve Butler, Mark Gall and Ken Charlery.

A new entity in the league meant they arrived very much under the radar as Scarborough did the year before, but it took them a while to get going under new manager Keith Peacock, Still having decided to remain in non-league football with a full time job outside of the game. Only two wins from their first ten games had most thinking the Stones would be making a quick return to where they came from, but all of sudden in October things clicked and a run of just two defeats from then to the end of the year, which included a 2-1 win at neighbours Gillingham in the first ever Kent league derby, had Maidstone pushing at the right end of the table.

Of course there are casualties of a bad run, title wining skipper Tony Pamphlett lost his place after a nightmare performance at the end of September against Cambridge Utd, one of six games against the U’s that season but more about that later! Keeper Mark Beeney was also on that list, but after injury to loan signing Johns after only two games, Beeney was restored to the starting XI, Charlery often finding himself the odd one out until later in the season when Peacock opted almost for a front four of with Jason Lillis in favour alongside the aforementioned Charlery, Gall and Butler.

Stones 2

By the time Carlisle Utd visited Dartford on a baking hot afternoon in early May for the final game of the league season, the Stones were still in with a shout automatic promotion if results went their way coupled with a win for themselves, their visitors also in the play-off places. As it was Maidstone thumped their northern counterparts 5-2 and, in the process ended Carlisle’s play-off hopes as Cambridge Utd sneaked in over the course of the final week of the season.

And it was the U’s paired with the Stones, a team heavily criticised for their style of play under manager John Beck as being very ‘long ball’, others would call it playing to the strengths of the players available to him, Beck fashioned a team with methods on and off the pitch which in some quarters were considered to be unorthodox but took the club to an FA Cup quarter final in March.

A strong keeper in John Vaughan, tough no nonsense centre halves in Liam Daish and Phil Chapell, two quality midfielders in Mike Cheetham and Chris Leadbitter and striking prowess in John Taylor, Steve Claridge and of course Dion Dublin, supplied by winger Lee Phillpot.

Stones 4

The Stones struggled to contain Cambridge in the first leg of the play-offs but escaped with a late Gall equaliser to leave the tie all square going into the second leg three days later back in Dartford. Ninety minutes of end to end football couldn’t separate the two sides, and when thrust into extra time, Cambridge took the honours with Dublin opening the scoring and with Maidstone pushing forward in search of a goal the same player netted coolly to take his side to Wembley and play-off final glory and onwards to a fine career with the likes of Manchester Utd, Coventry and Aston Villa to name a few.

That was as good as it got for the Stones in the Football League and their stay was over inside four seasons, obviously, some great memories for me as a kid growing up watching a team win promotion and have almost no fear stepping up one division and switching from part time to full time almost with ease.

The demise of Maidstone Utd will be looked at in depth in another upcoming blog

A twenty year dream for then chairman Jim Thompson had been realised but away from the town of Maidstone and the break-up of that team and demise of the club will be looked at in another blog at a later date.

Decision ratified, but still uneasy times

The FA

Originally the blog I was going to put up tonight is already written and has been for some days, I’ve managed to get into the art of getting these written which is handy considering I’m posting more often.

This post could’ve gone up two days ago, but the FA Council meeting to rubberstamp the decision to null and void the season for Steps 3-7 was postponed until today, Thursday. Not surprisingly the decision was ratified today despite opposition from nearly 200 of it’s member clubs and some backing from Football League clubs.

As per usual as I’ve stated in these blogs, the health of the nation and it’s people outweighs the moral compass of football, no change to this being a delicate situation and won’t be for some time. Despite this afternoon’s decision this story is going to rumble and it would be silly not to pass comment or imply my opinion, after all we all have one. I have no official affiliation to any club so there is no bias, I may ‘support’ one or two and follow a bunch load more, which will appear in a future blog (nice little plug there!), but merely my reaction to things.

So, as we stand we’re done from Steps 3-7 in non-league football for 2019/20 and soon after the FA released their statement the National League board also came out and reported they’ve asked their three divisions of member clubs to vote on whether the season ends or plays on, there is no guideline yet as to when that decision will be announced.

After Easter is put away for another year, I would expect to see what direction those clubs who disagree with the decision are going to take. That at least gives them three or four days to discuss amongst themselves if they plan to pursue the matter or ultimately accept the FA decision and press onwards. I would be surprised if they didn’t take it through the courts, they’ve already started a process and aren’t in agreement with the FA.

The biggest gripe I feel the football family has is the almost sheer bloody-mindedness of the PL and EFL to want to complete this season whenever they are allowed to, the National League are currently halfway between this. The cost of voiding their season and no recognition from UEFA if they do coupled with TV payments potentially being withheld could mean clubs in the Football League will buckle under the financial pressures. Should football void itself from top to bottom then we’re all in agreement even though there are clubs promoted and well set for promotion when games were suspended.

You only have to look at the likes of Jersey Bulls, Littlehampton Town, Stowmarket Town, Worthing Women to name a few, all unbeaten and two of those four having actually secured promotion before the suspension of games. The FA also stated today at clubs at Steps 3-7 will remain as per the constitution at the beginning of the season, but already since mid March ten clubs have resigned from their leagues and I’m pretty sure more will follow as the issues become more widespread over the coming weeks and months, so who replaces those ten clubs as a minimum? Do they promote ten clubs? Do they run each league short of one club? Has that been thought through and what if more clubs follow those first ten? I would hope some forward planning has already been done, but with the FA I’m loathe to believe so.

There is no doubt the footballing landscape can not look like it does now and survive after this crisis has passed. For years I’ve been wanting the game to go bust effectively, to re-set, redress from poor financial issues and look healthy again, it’s sad that it’s taken a life sapping virus to possibly achieve it. Having had my own involvement in grassroots football as a Secretary and a Treasurer over the past couple of years I’ve seen all too well how difficult it is to get money into that level and keep a club afloat whilst the game itself is awash with more money that it has ever seen.

Now is the time it has to change for us to have a pyramid of football for the next 100 years and beyond, this might be the only chance for the game to take a long hard good look at itself and stop the greed and look after the smaller cousins, we know the game is going to look different once it returns it’s how it looks which can be determined, but only if everyone plays their part…………

Guest blog 1: Why Ebbsfleet Utd is my team

Ebbsfleet

(Ebbsfleet vs Barnet Sept ’19)

I’m always looking for different things to put on the blog especially at the moment to keep people entertained and occupied during these difficult circumstances. So this one is the first of three people I’ve asked for a piece and there are a couple of other two or three part series to come over the next few weeks or months and I’m always open to different ideas if I can find a source to get the information from.

In the last couple of weeks you’ve found out why I am a Barnet fan and in this piece you will find out why Natalie is an Ebbsfleet fan, we all have a story this is hers:

As a 33 year old mother of two it is not very stereotypical to have such a huge interest in football but unfortunately for my family and close friends I would class myself as a huge football fan, let me tell you where it all began and the reasons behind my love for my local team Ebbsfleet United Football Club

Growing up in Gravesend with my Mum and Dad I never really had an interest in football till I was 9 years old. My Dad would go and watch our local team Gravesend and Northfleet Football Club (GNFC) and I always thought he was crazy to be standing there in the cold on a Saturday afternoon.

During the 95/96 season GNFC got through to the third round of the FA Cup, a home tie against Aston Villa which was later changed to an away day for us, I was asked to go and reluctantly agreed. It seemed like the whole of Gravesend was there that day to see us lose 3-0 but what an amazing day! I was hooked! Every weekend I would spend my Saturdays watching the team either home or away and met some great friends who we would travel to away games with. One of my earliest memories was having my hands thawed out by Jimmy Jackson’s Mum at an away game as I was so cold, I soon learnt to layer up after that! I grew to know the players and their families, even doing a piece on the club for my media GCSE homework

Watching the club has got me through many important times in my life from my parent’s divorce and difficult teenage years to starting a family of my own, it has always been a structured part of my life. Every Boxing Day me and my dad will always go to a game together home or away much to the delight of my family!

I have seen many different changes at the club, promotions, relegations, FA trophy wins, various managers and even a change of name to Ebbsfleet United Football Club.

I have witnessed some great players at the Fleet, Mickey Cotter, (my first crush!) Steve Portway, Jimmy Jackson and a very young Jimmy Bullard to name a few.

The highlight for me has to be watching us get promoted in the 2002 season, seeing Jimmy Jackson lifting the trophy and celebrating after in the club bar with the players. Watching Andy Ford our then manager dancing on the snooker table will be something I will never forget!

As a female football fan I have had some strange looks from some of the male fans especially when they realise I know what I am talking about! But I just take it on the chin, it won’t stop me going to games, even away games on my own.

I have made some great friends at the club from Harry that sells the programmes, (who I now have to call Grandad!) to some of our past players. You can always guarantee I will know someone when going to Stonebridge Road, my 8 year old daughter even attends some games with me and loves giving the team high fives warming up, exactly what I used to do at her age!

24 years later I have travelled far and wide to watch my team, Morecambe, Chester and Burton Albion are examples of the away games I have attended. This season I have travelled to Halifax and Stockport to support the boys even though we were in a relegation battle as I feel it is important to show your support when times are tough, and I am sure the team appreciates it! Plus I love an away day, the early starts, coming together as fans and even the long drive home buzzing if we have won and gloomy if we have lost, its all part of it.

Ebbsfleet was in the news with the late payment of wages last season which I try to stay away from and continue to show my support, however now we have a great director and new CEO who I know both want what is best for the club. We have probably lost one of the best teams in a while at the end of the 18/19 with the likes of Luke Coulson, Myles Weston and Dean Rance to name a couple that have left the team as well as Gary Hill the manager. I do have full faith in our new manager Kevin Watson though as he came in when times were tough and is proving himself to be a great manager.

Whatever the future at Ebbsfleet United Football Club you can be sure of one thing, I will be there………..

 

 

 

The non-league physio

Ally 4

(Picture courtesy of HilligerPix)

This was a blog that came as a suggestion and me being me of course had a Twitter contact only too happy to help. Step forward Ally Maloney, physio at Isthmian Premier Division side Cray Wanderers and providing me with a wonderful insight into how a full time day job can have football fitted around it.

So sit down, grab a drink and have a read of what it’s like to be a physio and what it takes to be one…………….

TK: Was physiotherapy something you always wanted to get into?

AM: When I was really young, I wanted to be an archaeologist (I was heavily influenced by Indiana Jones) but at 15 years old I decided physiotherapy was a better option, my only regret was I don’t get a cool hat!

TK: How much studying went into getting your qualifications?

AM: It was a lot of studying in fairness. Without the A-level based work it was a 3 year degree with clinical placements in hospitals. It’s 5 days a week and a lot of studying around anatomy, injury, psychology and exercise prescription amongst other things, I really got my money’s worth on that student loan!

It’s a hard degree but it gets you ready for a career where you never stop learning. I think I’ve studied more since leaving university than when I was there!

TK: Where did the job take you first?

AM: Football wise I started at Greenwich Borough about 10-11 years ago. My mentor Alex sent me down to a training session and the rest, as they say, is history. I spent a few seasons there with the team in the Kent League.

TK: And how did you find from a female perspective being involved in men’s football? What obstacles if any did you encounter?

AM: It’s going to be a cliché, but I’ve never really paid it a huge amount of thought. There’s always going to be a bit of banter flying around about it. 99.9% of the time it’s good hearted and I try to roll with that. If I was too sensitive, then physiotherapy in general isn’t a great career choice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely a few ‘dinosaurs’ still out there but I’m lucky that I haven’t had to work closely with anyone like that, to be honest I wouldn’t work with anyone still holding those views.

I used to hit a few obstacles when I first started, it was hard to break into football and then I had to work hard to prove I could work with men. In non-league terms, it’s never held me back, any comments just made me more determined and you learn to be a bit more thick-skinned. Nowadays its really common to see female therapists at clubs so I’m not that special anymore haha!

Ally 5

(Picture courtesy of HilligerPix)

TK: Indeed you’re not! It’s great to see so many female physios up and down the country. How long have u been at Cray Wanderers and how did you end up at Hayes Lane?

AM: I’ve been with Cray about five seasons now, I had joined VCD Athletic with Tony Russell (the current Cray first team manager) and won the league with them. He got the opportunity to go to Cray and took his team, including me, with him. He’s a great manager to work for so I jumped at the chance to tag along. In hindsight, it’s been a great decision as Cray are one of the best clubs out there. It’s not an amazingly exciting story.

TK: It doesn’t have to be, but it’s your story and everyone has one. So, talk me through a normal week as Cray Wanderers physio.

AM: A normal week would involve twice a week training on Mondays and Wednesdays, they involve a bit of injury assessment from any matches we’ve played to basically establish who is and isn’t going to be available for the forthcoming matches. It’ll also involve a fair amount of rehab and injury prevention work to keep the players individually in good condition.

Cray also have yoga sessions which are led by an instructor to help with the conditioning for the players benefit. I also like to watch training taking place when I get a chance as you can see more functionality with football based activity, and you get to understand the management team’s game plan and also the individual way each players moves.

Then at the weekend, I have a full day on matchdays. I get to the ground as early as I can to set up and complete any fitness tests/pre-match rubs and any treatment that’s required. Then I check my bag is ready (make sure there is a pack of Haribo in there or I’ll get a lot of sulking all around me) and its game time!

It wouldn’t be a football week however without my weekly story from our 86 year old goalkeeping coach Bill Lappage plus the dad jokes from the management team!

TK: 86! That’s fantastic to see someone of that age so involved on matchdays.

AM: He’s amazing, honestly one of my favourite people in football and probably in general as well.

TK: How does the football fit around the day job? (And what is the day job)

AM: By day I am an NHS physio, I work in the specialist rehabilitation unit from Monday – Friday. Luckily, I don’t work on call or weekends anymore, so it doesn’t impact on my football work too much. There are times when it can be a hard graft to fit them in together, especially when a Guernsey away midweek trip comes up! It’s a chore of love, my annual leave is often booked up in August as soon as those fixtures come out!

But there is an important balance to be maintained but honestly, I don’t think there are many people in non-league who have similar stories of commitment, but I do see that at Cray.

TK: Of course I have to touch on the current situation at the moment, have you or the club managed to do anything for the players such as fitness plans prior to the announcement to null and void the season?

AM: It’s still a massively unreal situation isn’t it, we had a couple of training sessions prior to the restrictions setting in. But then it became clear the league couldn’t continue which is sad but very necessary.

A few players have their individual work, a great opportunity to sort out those niggling little injuries. I sense as a club we will wait for the outcome of when football can start again, I hope it will be sooner rather than later.

TK: I’m hoping for the same but all we can do is wait. Is there a personal ambition to move higher up the football ladder or does mixing full time work with the football side work better for you?

AM: I would be lying about my ambition that I wouldn’t jump at a chance to give a higher level a try. I think I may have missed the boat on working in professional football now (I’m getting on a bit now and can’t see myself abandoning my non-league roots).

I really love my NHS work and I hold great value in what I do, and non-league gives me the opportunity to keep up that work alongside my passion in football. It’s a good balance and in terms of happiness I couldn’t be much better with my current set up.

TK: One last question, what one thing would you change about non-league football if you could?

AM: Oooo, that’s a hard one! I would love for crowds to be bigger! There is some class football and teams across the pyramid (cough, cough Cray are top of those lists) but it’s always a shame that it’s so difficult to tempt people away from the bigger league clubs.

My selfish request would be for compulsory use of golf carts for physios to get on the pitch, that would definitely up my Insta game!

 

My thanks to Ally for a great little interview, please go follow her on Twitter, @Little_Physio

Taking on the FA

NLP (2)

 

This weekend’s Non-League paper was full of great debate over the decision by the FA to null and void the season for Steps 3-6. Now I know I covered this over the past few days but since the news has been digested by clubs, there has been some big reactions coming out.

As I’ve said before and always will when writing these delicate articles, the health of everyone in this nation MUST come first and we must beat this virus. Football however is turning up some interesting talking points despite there being no games going on.

The latest we see and hear coming out of this decision made last week is a number of things, if the decision has been made too early, were all clubs consulted in a fair amount of time, is there a right of appeal for one club or every club, some of the things I will look at below.

I still believe the points per game ratio would be the correct way to go forward, had we been talking that most clubs hadn’t completed 75% of their games, then that’s not my thinking. I can totally understand the issues with players and contracts slightly higher up the pyramid from Step 4 and above, there are a lot of complications that would need to be ironed out, but were they ever even considered?

PPG would go against those starting to turn the tide which some clubs invariably do at this stage of the season, but that option makes you draw the line somewhere. There would be opposition to this I know, but is it a better scenario than just declaring this whole season never happened?

I’ve seen people call the decision ‘lazy’ and ‘easy’, a cop-out for not needing to go into detail and find the right conclusion, make the decision early without understanding where all clubs sit on the matter. I know full well some are already struggling and for them clarity is better sooner rather than later, it’s difficult whatever way this goes, such an unprecedented situation.

Null and void has now caught the attention of clubs unhappy with this decision. I listened on Sunday evening to the Worthing Supporters Association podcast, Rebel Yell, for more research with guests including Rebels chairman Barry Hunter, Hastings Utd CEO Billy Wood and South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson and it was interesting to listen to their views. Granted they are all clubs who have a vested interest as all three were winning their respective leagues.

To ask those clubs who have stayed unbeaten until the suspension and those who got themselves into great title winning positions to repeat that all over again is hard to take, the likelihood of it happening again is low, people also talk about the volunteer hours put in at every game and the money clubs have spent to get themselves in position and shape.

As I put this article together, the letter to the FA has been made public which I have read and is signed by 64 clubs, the outcome of that will surely be known within a few days and I await to see the response.

Whatever decision of the three options that was decided upon would have caused conflict. If the FA follow protocol across all levels then the National League and EFL should be made to follow suit and void themselves of 2019-20, the Premier League should really be the same as the integrity of the promotion and relegation scenarios are impacted at all levels. If nothing existed, then we are all level and re-set ready to go whenever that might be.

Of course at the top level it’s not simple either with added commercial and tv revenues etc, but with the wealth there that end of the game will survive, now imagine how the game could look if a percentage of that wealth drops down to secures the future of 100-200 clubs. Some don’t deserve it for gambling and living outside their means you can argue, and this is now the perfect time for the game to get itself back to reality when play continues.

By the time this goes to print the National League will have met again and there should be clarity for those clubs, again some will be against and some will be for the decision, whatever happens this will rumble on for a while, great column inches for me…………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Barnet?

Underhill Stadium

We all have a reason why we support the teams we do and they vary so much in their origin. Family ties, dragged along by friends, an attachment of colours, you name it everyone will have one and this is mine!

I grew up a Tottenham fan, after my late father brought me back both home and away shirts from the ’81 FA Cup Final, not that he was a Spurs fan, West Ham for him. I grew up in a multi-supporting house, Newcastle for my mum, Chelsea for my middle brother and the youngest brother also attaching himself to the Hammers. The love for non-league football came in 1986 and a trip to London Road, the then home of Maidstone Utd.

My first taste of floodlit non-league football, a 2-0 win over Nuneaton Borough courtesy of goals from Steve Butler and George Torrance. I can’t remember exactly how many times I went that season but I was there for the final game at the stadium before the move to groundshare at Dartford, it was also to be the first time I was to encounter John Still.

So from there I enjoyed watching Maidstone in Dartford, but a Football League club after one season, my first taste of league football, but in that time my dad would take me anywhere to watch a game, Dartford themselves where I first encountered Peter Taylor and Andy Hessenthaler, Welling Utd which was a first encounter with Lee Harrison and Terry Robbins, but also Kent League clubs, Darenth, Tonbridge and plenty of others, non-league kept it coming.

As it was Maidstone become the first Football League side to resign from the competition since the 1960’s and with it no club for me to support in 1992. I went months without watching a live game, until I suggested to my brother and one of his mates about going to watch Barnet who were doing well and looking good for promotion. I looked up our journey, one train into London and then a direct tube to High Barnet, nice and easy!

So off we went one Saturday afternoon in April, sun shining ready for football once more. Scarborough were the visitors to Underhill that day. When we got there, had absolutely no idea where to head for, so I asked the first person we saw, a chap selling a fanzine who turned out to be a certain John Cosgrove, became a friend and ended up on my stag do and at my wedding reception and not the only one.

We ended up on the popular West Bank behind the goal, which was to become our standing place until it was taken down and replaced with temporary seats. Anyway, back to the game, which Barnet won 3-1, the first a bullet header from former Maidstone Utd midfielder Tony Sorrell, being that he was one of my favourite last few players to appear in a Stones shirt I felt quite at home! Further goals from Brian Stein and Paul Showler secured the points for the home side and that was it, I was hooked on the Bees! I went again on my own to watch the penultimate game of the season, a 1-1 draw against Lincoln which featured another ex-Stone in Darren Oxbrow.

My first full season, well that fateful one where we survived expulsion from the Football League, the cobbled together side, all ticket games, FA Cup ties against Chelsea and a football boot away from victory, the arrival of Ray Clemence as joint manager alongside Gary Phillips and some great moments in what was a very troubled season, the only season the club has spent in what now is League One.

The Hive 1

Thats some twenty-seven years now in total, I’ve seen two promotions from the non-league game into the Football League, but three relegations in that time. I’ve made countless friends in that time alongside Cosgrove, mentions for Pete Williamson, Janet Matthewson, Tony Reckless Hammond, Michael Hanley, Nik Myles, Lucy Waldon to name a few, I’ve sponsored the likes of Nicky Bailey, Ashley Carew, Neal Bishop, Edgar Davids and Darren Currie.

I’ve seen some fantastic players in that time, some that went forward and made their name higher up in the games, some on the way down, Maik Taylor, Dougie Freedman, Jack Taylor, Jason Puncheon, Albert Adomah, Nicky Bailey are a few who went up, Paul Warhurst, Paul Furlong, Gary Breen, Andy Hessenthaler, Eddie Newton, David Hillier at the other end of the scale, there are many more I’m sure and everyone has a different set that mean something to them or spring to mind.

I can pick out goal-scorers in Freedman, Guiliano Grazioli, John Akinde, I could be here all day picking out players from here, players from there.

It’s not just the players, the ones in the dugout, Ray Clemence already mentioned, Alan Mullery, Gary Sumo Phillips, Edgar Davids, Paul Fairclough, Martin Allen and now the turn of Ruby Currie to make a mark on this club.

Whatever your team, there’s a story like mine about how you got there and where it’s at today, one thing I’ve always been able to say it’s never dull following Barnet FC…….