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Barnet Rivalries
Who are Barnet's rivals? We take a deep dive into past, present and maybe future rivalries. By: Eric Hitchmo 20/01/2024




This article has been viewed 762 times.

What makes a rivalry?

In most cases, it’s open and shut. Arsenal v. Tottenham, Manchester United v. Manchester City, Liverpool v. Everton. When you get to the lower leagues however, sometimes things aren’t quite as clear, and when it comes to Barnet and our rivals, it does become a bit murky.

Now many people would completely disagree with this notion. Our rivals are Enfield. Full stop. No arguments. This is of course true, but owing to their demise in the 90s, they have now split into two clubs and we haven’t played either of them in competitive football since 1991 when we met the original club in an FA Cup tie.

Amongst many of the lads I am friends with at Barnet, the deep resentment remains as strong as it ever did, but there are entire generations of Barnet supporters who have never seen us play any iteration of Enfield. Are we to expect the same level of hatred from someone who started going in 2010 say, versus someone who lived it during the 70s and 80s?

This to me is why Barnet and its rivalries have become a bit weird over the years, so I thought I’d dig into some of the rivalries that have started and stopped, speak to people who lived it, and understand who we really hate. So in no particular order…

Enfield

Barnet and Enfield have been more or less joined at the hip over these many years. Barnet have played no club any more than Enfield, 147 times between 1901 and 1991. Athenian League rivals, FA Cup ties, Amateur Cup ties, County Cup ties, London Cup ties and later the Conference, where Barnet have gone, Enfield have followed. Or vice versa.

The towns and boroughs of Barnet and Enfield neighbour each other and just six miles separates Underhill from Southbury Road. Neither ground exists any more, of course. Many stories have been told about running battles taking place on the 307 bus route and on several occasions I have been captivated by stories of the so-called "bus stop of hate" on Southbury Road. This is at a time where hooliganism in football was at its peak.

JC regales us of one particular bus trip home after another defeat. "It was quite simple really. We were waiting for the bus home after losing (again) 5-0. A group of their lot turned up just as the bus arrived. They kindly formed a guard of honour for us as we tried to get on the bus. Started kicking and punching us and a few others as we got on. Then a guy who I never knew the name of and a few of his mates turned up and basically saved us from a kicking. They got on the bus with us after slapping a few of the Enfield lot. The bus driver wanted us all to get off for some reason. Fuck off mate."

A regular from The Kings Head in High Barnet added, "I was about 17 in 1982. During the game some guy in his 40s punched me in the face giving me a black eye. I said something about his age and pick on someone your own size. He laughed and walked off not worrying about my feelings at all. At the bus stop afterwards he was there asking, ‘where's the cunt with the black eye’ obviously wanting to show off what he had done. It was a free for all once the bus turned up, I do remember kicking one guy in the leg and very hard."

Dan Whiting, author of the terrific book Barnet Affair, says of Enfield "Still hate them. When they were good the crowds were pretty even as we were shit. Both sides would get 800ish at home. The worst one I remember was a 3-3 draw in September 1984 when we were 3-0 down. They were pretty pissed off. 30 of them chased 6 of us down the road - we got caught and beaten." He continued, "I think we all remember that Steve Cox piledriver in front of a packed West Bank. People were getting picked up off the floor 2 mins after the goal. By the time the Cup game came around we just swamped the place and outnumbered them. We had the whole end and most of the side."

A man known as Fish had to take drastic measures one year, "I don’t know what year it was (for some reason my memory is not as good as others) but I recall being chased up Southbury Road towards the town. Bizarrely I was with John Smith and we ran into Enfailed Town station, jumped on the tracks and hid under the safety bit under the platform."

The tales continue. An infamous quiz night held in the old clubhouse at Underhill was always bound to be a disaster. Barely a few rounds had passed before it descended into a massive punch-up. Our man from The Kings Head told us, "Enfield just won against Altrincham that day to get to Wembley. They did actually make me laugh when they started singing the start of the Adam and Ants song Prince Charming with, ‘don't you ever don't you ever want to go to Wembley’. They put an Enfield flag up which I think got burnt up Barnet Hill sometime later."

Has this hatred dwindled over the years? To some extent, yes. After all, how can you hate something with the same passion and venom that you did almost 40 years on? Clearly though these handful of stories show that flame still burns strong.

Enfield had a serious demise in the 1990s. When the owner sold Southbury Road with no plan to relocate the club, they spiralled into decline rapidly. A fan-owned club, Enfield Town, was formed in 2001 in Brimsdown. The original Enfield carried on but after several relegations, they folded and reformed in 2007 as Enfield 1893.

The two clubs now are on similar paths. Enfield Town, the "new" club, are in the Isthmian Premier, two leagues below Barnet. They have floated around this level for some time, not quite able to make any further steps up but are again going well this season and should be in with a shout for the playoffs. They would consider themselves the true successors of the original club.

Enfield 1893 (now simply Enfield FC) has declined a merger with Enfield Town and currently is one league below them. Despite groundsharing as far as Bishops Stortford (26 miles away!) they average over 200, with Enfield Town currently pulling in over 500 each weekend. If anything, that demonstrates that there are certainly the makings of a return of what was a big non-league club that it once was.

Despite the stories and the default position of hatred, I can’t claim to care as much about Enfield as others do who were there. If we were to ever play one of the clubs, I suspect a lot of people who were around at the time would be there in attendance and it may just be a throwback to what once was, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince the newer generations of the rivalry unless there was a sustained run of fixtures. Talking of which, that brings us nicely onto…

Wealdstone

Now this one is interesting. This has all the ingredients to be really nasty. There is much the same that can be said about Wealdstone as has been said about Enfield. 121 meetings between the two sides over the years, the third most of any club (Hendon are the other). While there was never the same level of dislike as there was with Enfield, meetings between Barnet and Wealdstone in the past were fiery, and when you take recent events into account then you have all the hallmarks of a fierce derby.

Again, like Enfield, Wealdstone collapsed in the 90s and although they never fully ceased to exist, they dropped to a level that was barely above park football. Once a non-league giant, they dropped as far as Isthmian League Division Three in the mid-90s, barely ten years after completing a non-league double of the Conference and the FA Trophy. Meetings between the clubs at the time certainly had some needle, but the feelings weren’t perhaps as strong as Enfield.

JC summed it up simply, "Fuck Wealdstone". Quite. Our man from The Kings Head mentions trouble in several games in the 80s and the insult of them picking up the Conference trophy at Underhill in May 1985. despite a 7-0 hammering. Mr Whiting recalled, "Fat blokes who turned up every year who liked whacking people including on the pitch after the 7-0. Imagine a ground similar to how Woking was before that big stand was built. That was Lower Mead including open side and shit stand."

In much a similar fashion as Enfield, their Lower Mead ground was then sold off by the owner, of which Wealdstone saw very little of the proceeds. They lived a nomadic existence from then, groundsharing with Watford, Yeading, Edgware Town and later Northwood and Ruislip Manor while their search for a home continued. By the time 2004 came, they were back in the Isthmian Premier Division after the Conference North and South were created, meaning they were just two levels below where they once had been.

A return to the area was on the cards around this time as they began to develop the Prince Edward Playing Fields in Canons Park. There is some dispute over how complete the project was to this point, but in any case, the company co-financing the project ran out of money and the site lay derelict for several years until you-know-who saw the opportunity and took on the lease from Harrow Council.

Initially, Barnet used it as a training ground, and very nice it was too. The shell of the stadium remained there, empty, but I guess we should’ve seen what was coming. Promises were supposedly made to Wealdstone that weren’t kept, and after we went through the whole Underhill rigmarole, we moved in as permanent tenants in 2013.

I’ve paraphrased slightly in the interests of time, but all of this has left an extremely bitter taste in the mouths of Wealdstone supporters, and when they finally made it back to the pinnacle of non-league football in 2020, boy did they let us know about it. I mean, you can’t really blame them.

A 5-1 behind closed doors (COVID) defeat in their first season was followed by a 1-0 defeat in November 2021 in front of a rabid home crowd. Add to all of this that we’d poached their very successful manager Dean Brennan by this point, and you have all the makings of a cauldron-like atmosphere at the ramshackle Grosvenor Vale (formerly of Ruislip Manor). Brennan kept his players on the pitch for a while after the final whistle to avoid the abuse of the home crowd.

848 visiting supporters then arrived at The Hive in February 2022 to witness a sweet 3-1 victory in the ground that in their eyes, should have been theirs. This was something akin to redemption in their eyes, whilst we sat around a little bit dumbfounded at what we were witnessing.

I don’t think many Barnet fans these days care too much about Wealdstone, but when you have such scorn being thrown from one direction, you can’t help but notice it. Online and in-person, they HATE Barnet FC. If for whatever reason the two clubs continue to compete at the same level for the next few years, you could really see this developing into something.

After all, those younger generations who likely don’t understand why Enfield are so hated need something to focus their attention on, and of all the current candidates, surely Wealdstone are head and shoulders above anyone else as far as a rivalry is concerned. Even I’m starting to dislike them more than I should.

Stevenage

Talking of younger generations forcing a rivalry, that brings us nicely onto Stevenage. I’ll admit that 16-year-old me was at the forefront of this, desperate for someone to hate in the absence of matches against Enfield.

Of course this was a different era to the aforementioned Enfield and Wealdstone with fisticuffs being replaced by the tapping of keyboards as the internet age allowed spotty teenagers to argue with each other on message boards rather than in person.

In fairness, over the course of our fairly short stint together in the Conference in the 2000s, this one caught fire. This was helped along by some fierce encounters, individual personalities on both sides pouring petrol onto an increasingly tense atmosphere.

Stevenage as a town is a relic of a once visionary perspective on what a new town can be. Roundabouts and subways are dotted everywhere to try and add some appeal to the brutal architectural design of the town centre which has no place in the modern-day world. Whisper it quietly, but the old town of Stevenage is actual quite nice. It has had several clubs over the years but the one we know today only formed in the 1970s. They rose rapidly and were a force in the Conference in the 90s when we were already in the Football League. Who could forget that FA Cup tie against Newcastle when a certain Giuliano Grazioli got involved. He of course has since distanced himself from this blot on his copy book.

In so far as competitive matches are concerned, we only first met in 2001 in the Conference after our first relegation. By 2004, the rivalry had got going due to our geographical proximity, entertaining games and the input of a certain man called Graham Westley. There were also some great sideshow acts designed to drive some loathsome feelings, such as the ever-pleasant Dino Maamria and the clown Anthony Elding, both of whom were annoyingly alright at football.

This a sentiment shared by K77, "Westley and Dino! Love ‘em! Games against them at Underhill were great fun. Dino/Hendo sendings off and the tunnel shenanigans after. No other team in that era created that atmosphere or tension."

Early on, we did alright at Broadhall Way. Who could forget the Ben Strevens overhead in 2002 or the second half comeback in 2003 when Ian Hendon joined us in the stands. This was something that came along quite quickly and was bubbling up very nicely.

2004-2005 was where this rivalry peaked. With Barnet miles clear at the top of the league and a Xmas double with Stevenage on the horizon, Westley decided to stoke things up big time by declaring his team in the title race and going into the press saying words to the effect of "we’re going to beat them and catch them". He wasn’t far wrong. A 2-1 defeat at Broadhall Way on Boxing Day only served to make the encounter in the new year even more important.

We were having our customary challenges with Barnet Council at the time, so in front of the Sky cameras we decided to make a song and dance about it. Perfect ammunition for the away supporters to rub our faces in it. It was us who had the last laugh though as a late Ismail Yakubu header won it for us. We went onto win the league and they lost in the playoffs to Carlisle, who we also had some beef with that year.

Since then, inevitably Boro were promoted to the Football League and it would be fair to say they have made a better fist of it than we ever did. In eight FL meetings, we’ve only won one, and they have made it as far as the League One playoffs as they approach two decades as a League club.

Who knows when the hostilities will be renewed, but I suspect that when they are, it won’t take much to bring back that sense of rivalry that was so prevalent during those years in the Conference.

Boreham Wood

Ask some of our younger supporters who they would consider to be Barnet’s rivals and I expect that many of them would come up with Boreham Wood in the top end of their answers.

When you look at their history, it is not a million miles off the progress of Stevenage. The two towns are about as close as you can get, and there’s never been much love between the residents either. So why is this not more of a thing than it is?

It’s hard to put your finger on it. Boreham Wood, like us, don’t have many fans. They are also a victim of the Arsenal/Tottenham thing that means attracting support in the area is very difficult. For many years, they averaged barely 200, but have had a strong rise up through the leagues and their crowds have increased markedly. But even so, they barely average 1000 and even we are able to nearly outnumber them at their ground. The Hive is closer to Boreham Wood than Barnet is, yet they regularly bring fewer than 300 with them. It’s hard to create a rivalry when there’s no one there to chant at.

They would consider us a rival, I think, but it’s hard to convince many of our fans of a mutual dislike. They’re just annoying. We only really started playing them competitively in 2018 and all of the games seem to have passed with very little incident, either on the pitch or off it. Part of that is down to their horrendous but mostly effective style of football which has generally been too good for us. Less so this season, however.

Should we continue to compete at the same level, it’s a possibility I suppose, but there are several other bigger fish to fry in this department.

Leyton Orient

Orient are and always have been a bigger club than Barnet but that didn’t stop there being a fair bit of animosity during the 90s as the two clubs went toe to toe in seeking promotion from Division Three.

You could always guarantee a decent enough crowd at Underhill when Orient were in town and it would always generate a decent away support by our standards (usually 600 minimum in the more recent games) in the return fixture.

Whether this was more of a one-sided rivalry with most of the ill-feeling coming from our end is up for debate. But much like some of the "newer" rivalries that have been established, it likely came from a feeling of needing to replace Enfield once we began our foray into unchartered Football League territory in the 90s.

The Wardrobe recalls, "First game v. Orient was 1993-1994 in the midst of the losing run at the start of the season. Pulled it back to 2-2 from 0-2 and then conceded twice in injury time. HELL". He elaborated further, "It’s a case of Orient being a team that became our regular local basement division opponents. Many have a hatred of them and I know at least 3 people who count the 3-2 win over them in 1998-1999 at Underhill as one of their favourite ever Barnet games. We regularly had the edge over them and one particular season as we were dominating them again at Underhill and they were struggling near the bottom, a song was sung on the ET to the theme tune of Eastenders ‘Orient are going down’. They didn’t go down, and in fact when we were relegated in 2000-2001 one of our final home games was against Orient who were in the playoff places, and they overturned a 1-0 deficit to inflict a very damaging defeat on us."

Some years later though they did drop into the National League. The fixture was last played in 2019, and even at The Hive we pull in decent enough crowds versus the average swelled by a hefty away support as Orient, like many other clubs in the lower leagues, have enjoyed a resurgence in crowds in recent years buoyed by their National League success. They only spent two years in the league (one with us after our third relegation) but like many others came with an air of "big time Charlie" in this division (more on that later). To some extent this was justified, and where others have been stuck here for longer, they took only two years to win the National League and gain promotion back to League Two.

We haven’t played them since.

Fulham

OK bear with me here. This is not the resurgent new Fulham we see today that we’re talking about here. Nor is it the Fulham of the 50s in their heyday. This is Fulham at their lowest, before all the money got thrown in.

The first professional meeting with Fulham was in the 1993-1994 season when they were struggling in the third tier and we had just been promoted. Of course as is the case with many sides that season, they did the double over us but that did not prevent them from dropping into Division Three with us to be competing at that level for the first time in their professional history.

By this point, their crowds had dropped significantly going as low as averaging around 4,500 through the mid 80s-90s. Dreamy stuff for us of course, but for Fulham this was a fraction of what they could have expected some 20-30 years prior.

If we apply the same logic as we did for Orient, this so-called rivalry could be put down to us needing to find someone new to dislike. So why not have a pop at a big club while the chips are down?

For three seasons, Fulham competed with us in the Third Division, even finishing as low as 17th in 1995-1996 and flirting with relegation to the Conference for a time.

Of that season, The Wardrobe said "when we almost made the playoffs and beat them 3-0 at home on the final day of 1995-1996 we just missed out and their fans were giving it. Hated them ever since.".

However the following year they were promoted in second place losing out on the title on goal difference to Wigan Athletic, another club destined for bigger things.

It was at this point that a certain Mohammed Al-Fayed invested in the club and five years later they were back in the top flight for the first time since the late 60s and all of a sudden they were pushing 20,000 at home games each week. Very quickly it seemed that all was forgotten and they have likely not thought about us since, preferring to renew rivalries with Chelsea and QPR (even though there was a groundshare with the latter for a time).

You can just imagine that when in 2010 they reached the Europa League final, the fans there who stuck with it when it got really bad were regaling tales of having to slum it with Barnet for a time, although maybe we are flattering ourselves.

Honourable and Dishonourable Mentions

Brentford

Now let’s be honest, Brentford are too big of a club to remotely care about Barnet. However when Brentford were having a bit of struggle and ended up in League Two, there was a good bit of banter being knocked around purely based on the fact that we were both in London and both nicknamed The Bees, "ONE BEES IN LONDON", etc. We have a rotten record against them but there was a highlight of a FL Trophy win which put us into the Area Final, and of course taking them to an FA Cup replay when they were back in the Championship.

All I’ll say about them is what I said at the time. When have you ever seen a red and white bee?

Dagenham & Redbridge

Odd one this. This could have been something. You again have the geographical element at play, but although the mileage is low, it’s a pain in the arse to get there at the best of times and neither team takes a big crowd to the away fixture. Since we first met the merged club in 2001, we’ve played over 30 matches against them through the Conference, League Two and back again in the National League but there’s never ever been any particular strength of feeling from our side when there perhaps could have been.

They’re just a bit non-descript, aren’t they?

The League Title Challengers – Bristol Rovers, Carlisle United

We have had some battles over the years in the Conference with two clubs who are bigger than us; Bristol Rovers in 2014-2015 and Carlisle United in 2004-2005. As is often the case with established Football League clubs being relegated into non-league, they come with a certain air of entitlement that they are too big for the league and that they will breeze back up with no trouble.

In the case of these two teams, they did return quickly, but there are plenty of other examples of clubs who came down with an attitude and got stuck in non-league indefinitely. Think Notts County, Wrexham, Chesterfield, for example.

With Bristol Rovers and Carlisle, we got up their noses big time, just by virtue of beating them to the title. Who can forget the Champagne Supernova at Carlisle when in front of a record Conference crowd at the time, we turned up and won 3-1. Or Bristol Rovers who believed that they should have won the league purely because they had the biggest crowds. We beat them as well.

Now of course, they have ended up having the last laugh by re-establishing themselves back at their level whilst we have been the Football League’s perennial yoyo club. That’s fine, it was fun rattling their cages at the time. In recent times, Southend United are threatening to be the latest in the line of big clubs with an attitude problem. We’ll see how that plays out when they get a clear shot at the title in the coming years.


So that should be most teams covered. Our rivals are Enfield, there is no doubt. Very clearly there is no club remotely close to them in terms of pure, mutual hatred. But others have certainly come along to try and take the crown over the years and depending on what generation of Barnet supporter you talk to, you may get a different answer. How do you feel about our rivals? Are there any clubs that we have obviously missed, or are there any clubs that you dislike irrationally for no apparent reason? Let us know via social media or contacting us directly via the Mailbox.




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13/02/2022 The View From Afar
19/04/2013 Underhill
03/04/2013 Away
02/02/2013 Questions
21/12/2012 Miserable
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