WHEN the recent FA Cup first round draw came out of the hat and Barnet were paired with Preston, my thoughts immediately turned to how my 50-year love affair with the Bees began.
Back in 1965, I was a football mad 12-year-old, living in (dare I say it) Enfield. I had been a Spurs fan since the days of the legendary “double” winning team and was a regular at White Hart Lane.
Out of the blue one Friday evening my Dad came in from work and said that a colleague had given him tickets for an FA Cup third round tie between Barnet and Preston at Underhill the next day.
I knew a bit about the match from a preview on BBC TV’s Sportsview the previous Wednesday. Barnet were very much the amateur underdogs against the previous season’s beaten FA Cup finalists.
The next day Dad and I travelled to the game on the 107 bus that passed the end of my road and went straight to Underhill.
I must admit, it was the first time I had visited a non-League ground and, after going through the turnstiles in Westcombe Drive, I took up a spot right at the front with the tea hut behind me. I think the first thing that intrigued me was just how close it was to the pitch and players, plus how muddy the pitch was after a good overnight soaking.
First of all, things were pretty regulation for the Football League, Division Two visitors, who established a two-goal lead through precocious teenager Howard Kendall and Welsh international Brian Godfrey.
What came next was, I think, what really made me fall in love with Barnet FC as they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and came right back into the game with strikes from Roger Figg.
The bulk of the capacity crowd held their breath and dared to dream of a midweek replay at Deepdale. Tired black and amber bodies were laid on the line until the closing stages when Barnet defender stooped low and diverted a cross into his own net to break the Bees’ big hearts.
As for me, the one big bonus of that day was that I had fallen in love with Barnet Football Club. I can even say that I played Sunday football with Reg Finch, one of the Bees’ heroes that day and met several other members of the team when Reg had his pub in Cheshunt.
Down the years, I have been a regular visitor to Underhill and more recently The Hive, despite living for the past 30 years in Attleborough, Norfolk. I’ve followed them through thick and thin – promotions, relegations, Wembley, Loftus Road and Old Trafford.
One of my proudest moments was being among the small Barnet contingent, who witnessed the magnificent 3-1 win at Carlisle in 2004.
I’m also delighted to say that both my sons, Nick and Callum, are avid Barnet fans, who have attended matches from a very young age and have kept in touch with the action while travelling throughout the world with their jobs.