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An Ode To Underhill
A decade on from the most dramatic of finales, we pay homage to the most wonderful dump of them all… By: Max Bygraves 20/04/2023

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Ten years. Ten. In some ways, it does seem all that time ago but for the clarity of the memories of that day, it could have been last week.

The final match at Underhill, a 1-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday 20th April 2013, was an incredible way to bow out.

Glorious sunshine. Drinking outside The Weaver from 11 (but bottles, not pints, as we must ensure we remember this!) in an array of old Barnet shirts dusted down from the backs of wardrobes.

Having a wander down to The Pavillion and enjoying the delights of the cricket pitch as became a nice start or end of season pre-match in the latter years. Getting in the ground early. The earliest for years. Making sure we were in our spot, despite it long since being vacated for the next generation to enjoy. Singing. Loads of singing.

Jake Hyde’s 81st minute goal. Utter delirium. Bedlam. Bodies everywhere. 

The horror when we conceded a stoppage time penalty. The elongated seconds as we awaited Wycombe’s Joel Grant to take it. Stack’s save. He bloody saved it. It was almost too much to take in to celebrate. 

Moments later, the huge pitch invasion. And seconds into this, the dawning realisation it was all at an end. Wandering the pitch like a lost child. Head in hands. Delighted but devastated all in one moment.

Many of us stayed on the terrace long after the masses had gone. Trying to absorb it all. Taking one final look. Then another. No tears but big hugs with important people in this most formative of venues. The slow trudge out the ground. How many times did you look back?

A night then that smacked of Barnet. The Weaver. The Queens Arms. Back to The Pavillion for an incredibly awfully brilliant disco.

A bleary and dark Sunday morning followed. It was an amazing, bittersweet day but only one snapshot of an incredibly special place.

There’s so much I miss, or perhaps, have grown to miss about Underhill. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone as they say. They’d be right.

We’ve had comments on our social media from people who met their future spouses at the ground; people who saw their first ever live football there; and all of us here at Downhill Second Half would not have formed the strong lifelong friendships we have, were it not for that all important meeting place. Every Underhill regular has their own story.

I understand the perspective of ‘just get over it, it’s only a football stadium,’ but it held much more significance to so many than just a place where twenty two often below average footballers kicked a ball around for 106 years. 

Even now (not that there’s often much cause to) if I find myself in Barnet and walk under the railway bridge, there is a feeling, a thought and a flashback to that routine walk towards the East Terrace. The ghostly footsteps of a bygone crowd drowned out by the still passing tube trains above.

As you turn left into Fairfield Way, you can’t help but think that it doesn’t look right without the Old Red Lion (closed in 2015 having been there since 1792). I won’t have it that anyone who used to go to games doesn’t still look for the sight of the floodlights over the Westcombe Drive sign, either.

Priory Grove, the alleyway behind the East Terrace, is as it was but instead of the tired black corrugated iron of the stand, it’s now bordered by a large fence to the Ark Academy School which sits on the site of the ground.

Even though you can’t see anything now to suggest the football ground was ever there (aside from the sign on The Pavillion on Barnet Lane formerly of Barnet Cricket Club - also no longer there - which was used as the supporters’ pub from 2006-2013), it doesn’t take much for the senses to take you back to what used to be…

Frustrated customers at the ticket office window on Westcombe Drive, with Beverley Bacon doing all she could to remain calm, polite and professional. For a big game, a queue up the tarmac slope as fans shuffled into the tight turnstiles leading into either the East or North Terrace. Village’s programme stand. The sound of supporters inside already making noise on the East Terrace. For supporters of an older generation, the West Bank in full flow in what later became the South Stand.

At that far end, players shuffling through the crowds from the car park to enter the ground via The Durham Suite. The smells of those questionable bacon butties in later years. Onions, every football ground should smell of onions.

Sorry, we can’t just mention The Durham Suite without a visit inside for a quick one. A pint in an actual glass. The step to the stage at the front that caught out many an unsuspecting visitor. It’s drab magnolia walls with dim lighting, with a few framed shirts to add some colour. The dubious projector. Injured players stood at the bar with a ‘coke’ and chatting to supporters. Many a weird and wonderful night time party in there, both through the club and private ones as it was the place to hire for Barnet fans. Those BFCSA end of season award nights. Stupendous.

If you were lucky enough to take a peak behind the executive curtain upstairs, a mutton dressed as lamb arrangement but with the block windows offering a great view out onto the often carpet-like surface in the latter years. The late Ron Sturgess and then Wes Friedel making the slope the only pitch excuse any visitors could ever throw out. The likes of locals such as David Dein, Paul Davis and of course, the wonderful recently departed John Moston, often found milling around in there. The drink as much as you like for a set price offer having to be amended after a particular group happened to have it on the day the power failed against Shrewsbury and delayed kick off until 4:30.

Everyone has their own memory of where they were in the ground. Most of us moved around over time. Child like wonder turning to adolescent excitement before the slide into ever more cynical adult now in a seat, as the years went by. 

As a youngster, having a £10 membership which granted £1 a game access to the uncovered North and North West Terraces. The former being the choice for most. The thrill of being able to attend football with your mates unsupervised from late primary school age. Every week, getting the same players to sign your programme. Every week, asking the goalkeeper for his gloves. The excitement at any sort of acknowledgement from a player during the warm up you shouted to. Less than mediocre dry burgers from the snack bar on the corner. The smell and wonderful taste of a 60p powdered hot chocolate as you stood there in the rain getting absolutely soaked, trying to keep your programme dry as it had cost more than your admission. 

Those on the North West Terrace had a slightly different experience. It was this ground’s ‘moaners corner’ (well, perhaps the highest concentration, there were other spots, too). Middle aged and older men who knew exactly how the club should be run, how the team should be playing and with every ‘reliable’ rumour under the sun. 

Adjacent to this, the Main Stand. The best seat in the house. Unexplained blue seats for a club that’s always been some variation of amber. Dick Rolfe in the tannoy room next to the orange gated players tunnel. So many songs when heard today still have that tinny Underhill PA twang in the ear. Satellite by Hooters. The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys. Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim cannot be heard without picturing Underhill on a cold winter’s night at 7:40pm.

The tight tunnel and minuscule dressing rooms below. The smell of deep heat emanating out from beneath the stand. Kids’ faces pressed against the criss cross gate as the players emerged. The long wait for the gate to reopen after kick off if you were late to your seat. 

The players’ lounge (generous title) below the stand and the odd famous guest being just metres away from the average fan sat in the director’s box in name but with no other obvious differentiation. Who else ever waited for a guest of interest to make their way to the Durham just before half time to run down and grab a quick autograph outside the appalling, cobweb ridden toilets which were light years ahead with hand sanitiser - but only this and no sinks or running taps. 

The Family Stand next door. I watched my first game from that awful vantage point in a pre-season friendly as I presume that’s where my Dad assumed was the place to take a kid. We even went back a second time before the switch to the North Terrace. So far back from the pitch. More blue seats. If you were making the most of the hospitality, this would sometimes be the spot for a short bit of viewing before stumbling back into the Durham. 

Behind the other goal, I’ve only heard the fabled tales of the West Bank. An era sadly before me. In the latter years, the uncovered temporary green seats. The grim reality of them being more than halved in size following relegation in 2001. 

For one last hurrah, the shiny South Stand with the right coloured seats opening in 2008. A brief dalliance with that for many and some attempts at reigniting the West Bank atmosphere, before handing it over to the families and often a spot for newcomers. If they’d stuck a bar under it, what might have been… 

Lastly, the East Terrace. For a period of time, the most excitable place in the world for an adolescent Barnet fan. 

The smell of cigarette or cigar smoke wafting through the air. Plenty of space but tightly packed into that central pen. Sitting on the fence at the back for a better view on some occasions, or on others, just ‘chilling’ there before kick off to really show how cool you were. Yellow pages confetti. Orange balloons with SureStart on them. The thrill of starting a song. The shame of one not catching on. The agony of a voice break mid confident shout. The bundles. We’re On Our Way.

It was just a football ground. But it meant such a lot. 

Writing this now as someone who has made it to all but four of the home league games at The Hive this season, it’s a different perspective to the one I’ve had for most of the time since the move. I’m enjoying supporting Barnet again. I love going regularly. I accept times change and it will never be the same as those rose tinted years of youth where Barnet Football Club trumped everything else in life. I’m at peace with that much, though it’s take a long time and some things still require blinkering out in the name of watching football. 

But it does make me sad. The Hive will never truly be home. No matter how well we do on the pitch. 

If we ever did get back to Barnet, of course nothing would be Underhill, but it would feel more befitting of the history and legacy of the club. I still believe the appetite is there for a return from many, but it just needs someone to really spark the push. 

For now though, on what feels like quite a poignant anniversary, I’m just grateful for the times, experiences and memories of the old place. 

We’re the famous Barnet FC, and we come from Underhill. 

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All Articles By This Author:

13/06/2024 How It All Began
13/05/2024 Togetherness
29/04/2024 Outfought, Outthought, Out Of Ideas
10/04/2024 Nearly There
25/03/2024 "A Game Of F*****g Demolition"
20/03/2024 Another Step Closer
09/03/2024 Tepid
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13/06/2024 How It All Began
07/06/2024 A Barnet Story
13/05/2024 Togetherness
29/04/2024 Outfought, Outthought, Out Of Ideas
21/04/2024 The Best Of The Rest
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

  All materials on this site copyright Downhill Second Half and its individual authors. Content may not be reproduced without prior written permission. Special thanks to Chris Holland for use of photography and John Snow, John Erroll and Tony Hammond for statistical compilation.

A huge thank you also to Rob Cavallini whose Barnet history books set the basis for our journey to complete all statistics back to the start of Barnet FC.

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