1888 was an eventful year for our nation’s capital. Whilst a shady fellow nicknamed Jack was slinking along dark alleyways chopping women to bits, just a few miles north, Barnet FC were formed. With a history of amalgamation, reformation and name-changing that would be better represented with a tree-diagram, by the early 1900s the club had come to form a blend of teams formerly known as Woodville FC, New Barnet FC, Barnet Avenue FC, Alston Works FC, Barnet Alston FC and Alston Barnet Avenue Alston Barnet Harriers Associated FC & Sons (fair enough, I might have made that last one up). With a proud history of amateur football in the well-established Athenian League under their belts, the club turned semi-pro in 1965, joining the Southern League Division I and celebrating (well, why not?) by putting 10 (TEN) goals past Hinckley in a proverbial 10-1 spanking.
The club spent 26 years at non-league level, and with highlights such as a 1972 FA Trophy win (in a season in which they played an incredible 80 games using a squad of just 15) and several jaunts into the 3rd round of the FA Cup, it was always destined that Barnet would challenge for league promotion. The return of Barry ‘Scampi’ Fry in 1986 saw the club finish as runners up in the old GM Vauxhall Conference for 4 seasons out of 5. It proved 6th time lucky for Fry and Barnet in 1991 when a win in the last game of the season against the galacticos of Fisher Athletic saw Barnet promoted as champions of the Conference. Despite financial problems, the club had gained another promotion within two years, taking them to the heady heights of the old division two, where they would stay until 1996 when Fry’s replacement Gary Phillips was unable to prevent Barnet dropping back into the Rochdale Division.
Continuing the tradition of going through as many divisions and managers as possible, Barnet FC returned to the Conference in 2001 only to bounce back again in the 04/05 season with a 12 point lead over 2nd placed Hereford in the Conference, masterminded by former Stevenage boss Paul Fairclough (are you keeping up at the back? Good). Barnet were back among us, and to their credit have managed a mind-blowing 4 years without being promoted OR relegated. Fair play.
So overall, Barnet could almost be viewed as the anti-Dale. They have a amateur tinge and a history with ups, downs, highs and lows, whilst Dale have sat on our behinds, proud as punch that we’ve ‘never been non-league’, yet doing pretty much nothing interesting, ever. If Barnet FC is an episode of Jackass, Dale is an episode of the Royle Family. Football my arse.
Difficult one to describe, this. We all know that with or without the points deductions, Chester were doomed from the very beginning, and even though they ended up missing the drop, the fishy-smelling ones from Grimsby also seemed to be preparing to spend next season applauding AFC Wimbledon fans for singing derogatory songs about the roundabout-lovers from Buckinghamshire.
But cast an eye over the season and Barnet could have had it far, far worse. With just one point from their opening seven games (including a 3-1 loss to Dale at Spotland, which no doubt everyone apart from Jon Shaw has forgotten about), things were bleak by Christmas, with the club just 12 points clear of 23rd placed Bournemouth and dropping points left, right and centre. However, when Paul Fairclough resigned to take up a post as Director, former assistant gaffer Ian Hendon managed to guide the good ship Barnet FC through the stormy waters of League Two with wins over Dale and Bradford. Despite being knocked out of the FA Cup over two legs (again by Dale), the club managed a respectable 17th place, no doubt helped by the stalwart John O’ Flynn and hotshot Paul Furlong. Hendon has since signed a new contract and looks (for now) to have the club’s backing.
At first glance, many will be tempted to write Barnet off for the coming season. Of the teams that finished below them in 2009, Bournemouth were shackled by a 17-point penalty and Notts County have seemingly gained themselves a pretty penny (as well as a Man City-esque penchant for bullshittery). However, rejecting bids for white booted winger Albert Adomah, alongside the impressive captures of Micah Hyde and Yannick Bolasie on a long-term loan deal from Plymouth Argyle would suggest that all is not over at Barnet. The team also managed an impressive 2-2 draw in their annual pre-season friendly against an Arsenal team containing Rosicky, Arshavin and wannabe England goalie Manuel Almunia.
Ian Hendon has finally put his playing boots away to concentrate fully on management and will be assisted by World Cup 2002 defender Gary Breen. With a fairly dynamic young management duo on the cards, Barnet’s success on the pitch could depend on how the duo can show their authority on the pitch – a large factor of this will be how they replace influential captain Neal Bishop – yet another player to depart for Notts County, where the streets are paved with gold.
Barnet the place?
Barnet is a borough in North London. Research conducted by hardy Dale fans has proven that it takes a long time to get to, is very cold and often has a lot of rain. Studies into the area’s many fast food emporia are ongoing.
Barnet play at Underhill Stadium. Known as the home of Bilbo Baggins of ‘The Hobbit’ fame, the ground is small, underground and has round doors. The pitch is sloped at an angle which from my GCSE maths could be described as ‘acute’.
Dale fans travelling to Underhill often congregate in the Old Red Lion Pub, which does a cracking ham and cheese sandwich.
Barnet in a word?
Written by Ross Pennington on 20th July 2009.