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Simon Clist
When he scores a goal we'll all get pissed! By: Max Bygraves 14/02/2024


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Coming in through Mad Dog’s revolving door of random players midway through the 2003/04 season, Simon Clist proved an anomaly to the rule of short-term fixes at the time. He’d go on to very much be remembered as Mr Reliable for his contribution the following season but caught the eye in his early days with a bit more pizazz.

An inspired debut in the Bees midfield saw us to a 3-1 win over Margate at Underhill. In his third game, he notched his first goal for the club in another 3-1 win at Morecambe. How much of a collector’s item this would prove to be was certainly not appreciated at the time.

The Bournemouth born midfielder would become a mainstay of Allen, Whitbread, Hendon and finally Fairclough’s side as they stumbled into the 2003/04 play offs. Playing for four managers in his first 11 games shows he came in at something of a tricky point.

A regular starter until the final week of the season. A contribution from the bench to secure a play-off spot on the final day against Leigh RMI.

It was the same role for the number 16 at home to Shrewsbury in the first leg of the play offs the following Thursday. Clist was introduced on 67 minutes replacing Guy Lopez. Another man sure to end up in this section of the website before long.

The score was 1-1. It was cagey, fast paced and intense. Taking a lead back to Shropshire was important but the chance appeared to be fading as the clock ticked into stoppage time.

A moment for the ages on 94 minutes. Tricky winger Ismail Yakubu (you read that right) whipped in a lovely low cross and there was a stooping Simon Clist at the near post.

It was one of those moments to savour where time slows for a moment and you’re allowed the joy of processing what’s happening before your eyes. Simon Clist etched his name into the minds of Barnet fans of a certain time with this last gasp header to win the game and provide the East Terrace with some of the finest bundles it ever did see.

The play offs are a cruel mistress. Highs and lows, heroes and villains - cliches are there for a reason. Clist once again replaced Lopez midway through the second half at Gay Meadow. He would again make the headlines - but not for the same reason.

The anguish of a penalty shootout would be the way that season concluded. Shrewsbury had scored their first four. Simon Clist stepped up. He didn’t look confident. He wasn’t. A poorly hit and aimed penalty was saved by Scott Howie. Darren Moss rifled the following Shrewsbury penalty past Shane Gore and the dream was dead.

Clist had gone from the answer and saviour to the villain. No one blamed him for the play off final remaining an elusive event for Barnet - but his name in lights had been dimmed very quickly.

For one man in particular, this was very much the case. Paul Fairclough was named permanent new manager shortly after the season’s conclusion and went about assembling the best Barnet side for a generation during the 2004 close season.

Simon Clist was not in his vision for this. Not so much the forgotten man, as the unwanted one. Him and Ben Strevens were publicly made available for transfer on the eve of the pre-season friendlies beginning. It appeared Clist’s Barnet career would be short-lived and ultimately end in huge disappointment.

Fast forward to mid-August and with a whole new midfield installed, it was evident Clist wouldn’t be getting a spot there. However, for all the good recruitment done, at the back we looked slightly short.

Chris Plummer, the defensive lynchpin of the previous season left for League One Peterborough (a familiar story) and this saw Paul Fairclough move Ismail Yakubu from the wing and Simon King from left back into the centre of defence.

A vacancy was at left back and for the opening day against Forest Green Rovers, Simon Clist filled in there. This continued for the rest of August. Steady, largely unnoticeable displays becoming a constant as Barnet rose to the top of the league with a Bank Holiday Monday win at Canvey Island.

Inadvertently, Fairclough had stumbled upon a very simple answer to a potential left back problem. Clist’s performances during an unbelievable season for the football club seemed to fit much more in line with his character than the headline-making finale to the season before. A quiet man here to do a job. Barnet’s number 16 went from being dispensable to one of the first names on the team sheet.

He would go on to be the only member of the title winning squad to play every match of the 42 league game season. However, despite much will and anticipation from the crowd (“Simon Clist, Simon Clist, Simon Simon Clist - when he scores a goal we’ll all get pissed, Simon Simon Clist!”) there was no adding to his two goals from the season.

Barnet played champagne football throughout that season but Clist was the designated driver. He stuck to his role, did everything properly and avoided all the fun stuff.

In the 41st league game, at home to Carlisle with the trophy presentation looming as full time neared, a chance came for Clist’s big moment. A penalty was awarded and whether it was planned or the pressure from the crowd paying off, the ball was given to the Bees left back. If memory serves me correctly, he looked like he didn’t want it. From the way he took the penalty, this would appear to have been the case.

Unlike his play off moment of heartbreak, this penalty wasn’t even on target. The ball was ballooned over the crossbar and went skyward towards the ‘Champions!’ banner on the North Terrace fencing. In the context, most had a light hearted chuckle at this spawned opportunity. You imagine the night and celebrations that followed were perhaps slightly less exciting for Clist afterwards.

Going into the following campaign, Clist was a nailed-on starter - until the end of pre-season. In reverse to the year before we he’d fallen into the team by good fortune, in the summer of 2005 bad fortune struck and a serious injury ruled him out for much of the campaign.

A real injustice so soon after his huge contribution to the title. It meant he played no part in two victories against his former club Bristol City, away in the Carling Cup and at home in the LDV Vans Trophy. And of course, the small matter of Manchester United away in October. Perhaps the biggest scandal in all of this was that it gave an extended run as a football league left back to Adam Gross. A tough watch for everyone, not just Simon.

He made a cameo comeback just before Christmas for the final five minutes of a disappointing home defeat to Northampton. Consolation on a miserable afternoon.

A few days later, he made an extended return appearance that you had to truly be an elite member of the Cult of Clist to see. A hastily arranged mid-season friendly with a Barnet XI (and it really was an XI job) away to Aylesbury United at their sadly now long-abandoned Buckingham Road ground in the middle of December.

It was freezing. I mean really, really cold. There can’t have been more than 20 Barnet fans there but those of us that for whatever reason deemed that an acceptable way to spend an evening were treated to 90 minutes of Clist marshalling a team of Protec Academy kids to a 1-1 draw.

Once fit, he would go on to win his place back but it was a stop-start return. Further injuries restricted him to just 13 starts, with his final appearance coming in a 0-0 draw at Chester City in April.

At the season’s end, it still came as quite a surprise to many that Clist’s contract wasn’t to be renewed and that he was being given a free transfer. It felt like the injury the summer previous hadn’t allowed his Barnet story to play out in full the way it should have.

Forest Green picked him up, where he spent two and half seasons in the Conference before being bought by Oxford United in their push to return to the Football League. He was part of their promotion winning side in 2010 before moving on to Hereford which was to be his last club.

Since hanging up his boots at Hereford in 2013? Who knows? Proper cult hero behaviour.

By all accounts, he was never the ‘footballer’s footballer’ type. Clist has turned down any approaches to talk about the old days and is one of the few apparently not involved in the ‘champions of 2005’ WhatsApp group.

Some cult heroes are so bad they’re funny. Some are enigmatic. Some are talented mavericks but others just do the job and deserve a salute for their service. That was Simon Clist.




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All Articles By This Author:

Date 
10/04/2024 Nearly There
25/03/2024 "A Game Of F*****g Demolition"
20/03/2024 Another Step Closer
09/03/2024 Tepid
06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
21/02/2024 Shot Down
14/02/2024 Simon Clist
04/02/2024 Unpleasant
10/01/2024 Daggers Defeated
31/12/2023 Nine Point Christmas
1234567


Other Articles By Category


Date 
10/04/2024 Nearly There
25/03/2024 "A Game Of F*****g Demolition"
20/03/2024 Another Step Closer
17/03/2024 Card Bored
09/03/2024 Tepid
06/03/2024 Bring Barnet Back
21/02/2024 Shot Down
20/02/2024 (South) Underhill
04/02/2024 Unpleasant
20/01/2024 Barnet Rivalries
12345678910...

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