Heart of the community. Soul of the club intact. Lowly but proud. Barnet FC were a small but unique club that played at a proper football ground.
However, when the decision was taken to leave Underhill and relocate to the Hive in Edgware, the gradual erosion of that identity and soul commenced.
Now, Barnet languish at the bottom of the National League and have three wins, -42 goal difference and a mere total of 13 points after 26 games with supporters disillusioned and apathy for what the future might bring high.
Iain Stansfield, a Barnet supporter, told me in interview that over the last few years, there have been a “lot of wrong decisions” that have been led the club to this desperate point.
The move from a squad “that went to the play-offs to this” is one that has perplexed him many other Barnet supporters.
They have witnessed perceived disinterest, a lack of commitment and passion, and poor recruitment.
This led him to conclude that most of the current amalgamation of Barnet players “don’t have the basic ability to move a ball around the pitch and get it into the goal”.
It is not just on the pitch whereby ineptitude has reigned, it is also off the pitch. One instance of this was the perceived shortchanging of supporters who forked out for a season ticket when fans were briefly let back in, for them not to be refunded and only given a stream pass instead.
Stansfield felt particularly irritated by this, and this is just one example in a long list of the perceived ill-treatment of loyal supporters by those in the higher echelons of the club.
However, hope is still there despite the despair because Barnet seem to have avoided relegation through the null-and-voiding of the National League South with no promotion or relegation. This provides Barnet with an opportunity.
As Stansfield remarked, it allows them a chance to restore a “sense of ownership and responsibility” for this disastrous season and recognition that “the club needs to build bridges” with supporters that have felt a “detachment from the club” and who just want to see progress.
Paul Fairclough is now in interim charge at the club. Paul Fairclough used to manage Barnet FC and won promotion in 2005 so has always been a man that has been around the club. He has held Barnet close to his heart and this managerial stint is another of his many at Barnet.
His understanding of the club means that according to Stansfield, the club needs to involve him in the process of appointing the next manager who needs to be someone young and energetic as opposed to someone off the National League circuit.
According to Stansfield, Barnet need a “manager that is going to be the manager.”
This would symbolize the restoration of some pride to the club because the supporters would have a figurehead at the helm and some much-needed stability.
Recruitment is another area that must be improved. Stansfield recommended that Barnet should look around the academies of higher clubs for players with quality that are not of the Premier League level because it is “a good model and is sustainable too”.
The “infrastructure and fanbase is there” for next season to be better than this current one but the club “have to get recruitment right”.
If this happens, then the pride of years gone by may be restored and the club could make progress, but it is a big unknown and performance in recent years do not fill us with confidence.
‘Time For Responsibility
As a Barnet supporter I have endured misery and ignominy since the Club’s move to the Hive in 2013. Frankly, I am tired and almost numb to the regular incompetence.
Other than one great season in 2014/15 when we won the Conference, it has been either tedium or desperation that has reigned and supporters have suffered the most.
Our owner, Tony Kleanthous, over the last few years has shown disinterest in footballing matters and has left the situation plummet to new lows with worrying regularity.
Whilst on the pitch, there have been glimmers, periods, and moments of hope but they have been all too brief, and misery has never been too far away.
This season has arguably the worst since we made the move because there has been a damning lack of passion or commitment to improvement and the club from most players.
The absence of supporters has also meant that a feeling of detachment has set in because we have not been able to vent or opine with fellow Bees supporters, therefore a feeling of sad numbness or predictability has set in.
We just want passion and desire and now that Paul Fairclough appears to have reinstalled that, progress may be made next season.
It needs to, because we, as a supporter base, cannot take much more of this.