BARNET’S BIG CHANCE TO COME OUT FROM UNDERHILL
SO, it’s goodbye to Underhill. And, let’s be fair, good riddance. Barnet’s home of 106 years is a fantastically atmospheric old place, its ramshackle stands and infamous slope evoking a bygone era.
But that, sadly, is the problem. Barnet’s academy, led by the impressive Paul Fairclough, is cutting edge. They have a former Dutch international in the dug-out, ex-Premier League players on the pitch.
Everything about the club is 21st century. Everything except Underhill. It is a relic. Old, crumbling, exposed to the elements – a NonLeague ground at a Football League club.
For years, Barnet have struggled to meet groundgrading criteria, fixing floodlights, improving segregation, erecting ever more stands (they now have an incredible seven). But it always felt like trying to save the Titanic with a rusty bucket. Now they have a chance to finally start afresh, to regrow the club. Barnet is home to some 40,000 people, yet only about 2,000 ever bother to watch their local team. Even if Arsenal and Watford are on the doorstep, that is a dismal turnout.
Poor crowds mean poor revenue. Poor revenue means a poor team which, with the limited appeal of a trip to Underhill, keeps more people away and the club stagnates. In each of the last three years they have survived on the final day.
Yet if Barnet can build a new ground (they will spend next season at their Hive training ground while looking for a site) it could change everything.
Just ask Brighton who, since building the fabulous Amex, have gone from League One strugglers to a team challenging for the Premier League.
It is not just the number of seats or the facilities. It is about the feel-good factor that comes with seeing a club move in the right direction. Interest ignites. Fans bring a friend, or their kids. Players want to be part of it.
Obviously Barnet aren’t Brighton. They may never reach the Championship play-offs. But they might get to stop fighting relegation year after year, which was the only prospect at crusty old Underhill.