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It's time to go home

Updated: Mar 5

Having followed Barnet all my life, I don’t specifically remember my first trip to Underhill. What I do remember though are plenty of weekends spent visiting my Grandma who lived in High Barnet and walking down the High Street to Underhill on a Saturday afternoon. With little legs at the time, it felt like a longer walk than it was but little did I know the club would soon not be in walking distance from Barnet at all!

To ease the pain of the walk back up the hill, Mum and Dad used to let us get a milkshake from the place opposite the station when we had won the game…this very quickly turned into the norm for a loss and a draw, probably to keep us quiet! We used to get back to my Grandma’s and she would have Ceefax on having been keeping up with the scores through the afternoon…that makes me feel old!

Despite growing up in Leeds, Barnet did something to capture me and northern away days were no longer filling my need to watch football. I was around 11 years old when, instead of just being willing to go to games, I was actively asking my parents to take me (I didn’t quite realise that driving 400 mile round trips every week was not a normal thing to do!) The charm of Underhill had got under my skin and I was looking forward to every trip. Unfortunately, the world had other plans and it wasn’t long until we were going to be on the move.

I made the most of every trip we took though. I remember walking into the gates of the ground and queuing up to go through the turnstiles, I can still see the faces of stewards who worked there. Once we were inside the ground, I loved how close we were to the pitch and the players felt so accessible.

On the summer days, we sold ice cream which was always a non-negotiable! Jump by Van Halen used to blare through the speakers just prior to the teams coming out to Sweet Child O’ Mine (Barnet must be partly to blame for my excessive love of 80s music for a 24-year-old!) I was one of those kids who would tick the players’ names off on the programme and shout the word tube every time I saw a northern line train go rattling by in the corner of the ground. I still wear the first Barnet scarf I bought and my Underhill shirt now.

I’m sure you over romanticise certain memories as a child because I don’t really remember ever being cold at Underhill. There also seems to be an excessive amount of balloons and confetti in my memories. Saying that, maybe it’s because of how many times I watched us surviving a relegation battle at the end of a season!

So despite my new found love for a sloped pitch in Barnet, by the time I was 13 it was time to say goodbye. Me and my Dad were actually on the Football League Show footage that day, I wonder if we’ll be asked to recreate it! I look back on our final game with such happiness. It really was the perfect day. The one and only Edgar Davids in a Barnet shirt, the goal from Jake Hyde and that incredible penalty save from Graham Stack! Getting the result we needed to take the relegation battle to the final day of the season meant it was a day only for celebration.

My support for the club has only grown since the move to The Hive but I have kept such a nostalgic love for Underhill. I don’t really remember much of the local campaigns in terms of the move initially due to my age, lack of proximity to Barnet and the fact social media wasn’t really as big in those days. However, I knew we were hard done by and that the move was not what we needed as a club. Even when the ground was demolished, I would still take walks down from my Grandma’s when visiting just to see the Pavillion sign and remember where it was that first felt like home in football.

As I’ve got older and learnt more about the club and its history, I have only felt positive about a move back to Barnet one day. Although I think it’s fair to say that like most other people, I was totally taken aback last month when the club made the announcement about our intention to return now. I sent it to all my friends and family and felt so much optimism and excitement. The fact the return will be to South Underhill too makes it even sweeter and it really does feel like we’re heading home.

Not only am I excited from a football sense but as I’m now older and living in London, I’m looking forward to a new match day experience. The feeling of being part of a group and walking from a nearby pub to the ground in time for kick-off. I’m not only excited for this move for football reasons, having continued to visit Barnet and seeing how it’s changed, this is exactly what the town needs too! There is no doubt that the return of the football club will put life back into the High Street on a match day and I can already sense the buzz that will surround the area.

I bought my first Barnet shirt (2009/10 away shirt for anyone interested) at the club shop that was on the High Street. The man working behind the till gave me a little bear for free which still sits at the end of my bed in Leeds - I named it after Lee Harrison! Our family have memories of meeting players on Barnet High Street at community days and this is something the local community will no doubt be excited to see return. This is what Barnet Football Club is about and this is the way we will continue to entice supporters young and old to back their local club.

As I previously mentioned, when we moved away from Underhill I wasn’t in a position to get on board with a campaign and make my voice heard. However, this time round I am ready to shout from any rooftops to support the club in our quest to go home. It’s important that we are all a cohesive unit with a consistent message. This includes supporters, residents, local businesses and many others. We all want to achieve the same aim and if we put our voices together, I have no doubt we can make a difference to Barnet and return to Underhill.

I have already spent plenty of time daydreaming about our first game back and I can’t help but get as giddy as I did just over ten years ago when I think about going to Underhill.

This is our club, this is our home and we will make sure we Bring Barnet Back!

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