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AWAY DAYS



Imagine If We Stay Top All Season...
Canvey Island away doesn't really stand out as an away trip that would involve much activity. However, it is still talked about occasionally as a classic, particularly as it was the day we went top of the Conference and stayed there for the rest of the season. Add to that the fact that this was AUGUST Bank Holiday and it tells you just how good this season was and this is where it really kicked off on the away day front.

We had a slightly different one at Halifax a week previous where a minibus went up to The Shay to see an amazing 3-2 win, but this one was a short tube and overground hop to Essex. It was an early start though regardless, with the regular morning meet in Barnet which drinks already flowing and into the Wetherspoons' in Tower Hill and a sizeable 20 or so Barnet in the group. A missed train lead to the Wetherspoons taking plenty of early business as they allowed us to purchase unopened bottles for the train ride to Canvey, and wasn't that very nice of them? Some of us strolled around searching for the nearest Ladbrokes and phoned through our orders to Wetherspoons whilst filling out the bookies best friend, i.e. the accumulator.

An 1100 train, littered with chavs on a sunny Bank Holiday, got us to Benfleet by 1200 where taxis were assembled outside to get us to the nearest open pub. Humorously, we found a cab whose driver was an Enfield fan. He promptly refused to allow us into his taxi. Perhaps the additional comment from someone in the group of "Oh look, we've found the Enfield fan!" helped towards his decision. Regardless, the next cab driver was much more willing to take us to Canvey.

Such was the increased presence around Barnet supporters at the time, that we were invited to just the one pub where some Barnet had already arrived. Our group turned up already well underway by 1215 and the pub had food on offer as well. As it turned out, this was pretty perfect. Though some decided that the seafood stall outside would be a good bet, the more sane amongst us decided that with the battering our system was likely to take today, the seafood could only make things worse. That was one reason, perhaps another was that it just didn't look very nice. Just a thought...

The pub had taken plenty of business by 1430, it was rammed with Barnet and some of us decided it was now time to move onto the ground. Canvey had enjoyed a rapid rise through Non-League to the Conference and it showed in their ground. It was a very small affair, the Main Stand seating maybe five rows in all. A shallow terrace, and a very small part of the Main Stand was to be home to the Barnet supporters for the day and by the time everyone had made it through the areas were very busy. It must have been close to a 50-50 split between home and away supporters, if not more Barnet, but then of course that is a completely unbiased opinion!

The game was something of a slow one, but it was a solitary Dean Sinclair goal that was enough for Barnet to take the points in the first half. With results elsewhere going our way, Barnet were top of the Conference and we were letting everyone know about it. After some 'bargaining' with the local Essex Constabulary during the game, we were allowed into the seating area to create something of a racket which continued out of the ground and on the walk back to the pub. No such luck. Due to some apparent intelligence regarding an element of trouble which appeared to be absolutely nowhere, the pubs were shut. Fortunately, and seemingly out of nowhere, an off licence appeared on the corner of the road which allowed for some stocking up of supplies for the journey home. Cabs and buses were shared back to the station for the 1800 train back into London.

At the time, it was customary to photograph attractive ladies in the Barnet colours and there was much of this on the way home. Such was the joviality having gone top, it was all part of the fun. Soon we were back into Tower Hill and after one of the lads hilariously conspired to topple halfway down the tube escalator, destroying all in his path, noise levels had continued to grow. It must be horrible for the people who are just trying to get home quietly after a nice day out to hear a group of rowdy football supporters approaching round the nearest corner. What a bunch of inconsiderate louts, honestly!

The whole group were together back into Barnet, where it was customary to spend the rest of the evening in The Weaver, celebrating until closing time. Much happiness was still being derived from the fact we were top, and teletext was put on hold to commemorate it. It was here that the now famous quote came from one of the lads;

"Imagine if we stay top all season."

We all laughed. And we laughed for the rest of the season, as everyone else in the Conference followed lamely in our wake. A superb day out and the start of an incredible experience in winning the league.



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