Barnet FC was formed in 1888, having formerly been known as New Barnet (1885-1888) and Woodville FC (1882-1885).Known as "The Hillmen", they were formed by ex-scholars of Cowley College and Lyonsdown Collegiate School and played in New Barnet before moving to Queens Road in Ravenscroft Park in 1889. Barnet were one of the teams to enter into the new North London League in 1892/1893.
They had a lot of success in the North Middlesex League from then onwards and also competed in the Middlesex Junior Cup, Senior Cup and the London Junior Cup. In these competitions they would face Tottenham Hostpur, and once beat them 5-0. Thames Ironworks were also regular opponents, the name for the dockyard workers who would eventually become West Ham United. As well as these games, Barnet would enjoy competitive fixtures against local rivals Hendon Rovers, Finchley and Barnet Avenue.
They then moved on to play in the London League Division Two, becoming champions in 1897/1898 before ceasing to exist in the 1901/1902 season.
That was not the last of Barnet FC however. In 1890, another Barnet side called Avenue FC progressed well through the Middlesex Leagues and in 1904/1905 they were to rename themselves Barnet FC. Avenue FC and the original Barnet FC became strong rivals and would regularly meet in front of large and vociferous crowds.
They were to join the Amateur Football Association in 1907/1908 having won the Chiswick League and played home games on Hadley Green, before eventually taking over the old Barnet FC ground on Queens Road. In 1910/1911 they reverted back to the Football Association and in 1912 merged with another local team called Barnet Alston.
Alston Works AFC were another club based in Barnet and formed just before the original Barnet FC dissolved in the 1901/1902 season. They were a works team for the dental manufacturer Alston Works in Chipping Barnet and were known as "The Dentals" or "The Amber & Blacks". In 1904/1905, they turned senior and renamed themselves Barnet Alston FC.
Initially, Barnet Alston played at Underhill Farm, just off Totteridge Lane before moving to the current Underhill site in September 1907. In 1912, they merged with Avenue FC (who were renamed as Barnet FC) to create Barnet & Alston FC and becoming founder members of the Athenian League. After the First World War, the name was changed back to Barnet FC, which continues to this very day.
1919 - 1930s
Serious football was abandoned during the First World War but soon afterwards the Barnet & Alston team resume duties in the Athenian league as Barnet FC.
Prior to the war they had finished runners-up (1912-13) and 6th (1913-14) and in 1919-20 they finished third in an extended league of 12 teams. The following season they finished bottom with two points and several administrative changes were made for the following season.
In 1924-25 it was Exeter City who, once again, ended a promising run in the FA Cup. This time the game was played in Exeter but the score remained the same at 3-0. In 1925-26 Barnet went a step further this time losing 3-1 to professional opposition at Brentford. In a close game, George Sparrow and Arthur Snaith were kept at bay by the wonderful saves of the Brentford keeper. In 1926-27 the club again met professional opposition. This time they travelled to Brighton losing 3-0. On March 21st 1925, George Sparrow became the first Barnet player to play international football, playing football for England against Wales at Plymouth.
In 1926 Alfred Shilling retired as President and was replaced with Mr W. Watson. Mr George Sanderson became Hon. Secretary (later Chairman). A new stand was built at Underhill, costing £1,200, the bulk of which was loaned to the club by the new president and three other local gentlemen.
In 1927 Barnet win the Herts. Charity Cup beating St. Albans in the final 3-1. This was a fine performance considering the saints were champions of the Isthmian League (1923/4, 1926/7 and 1927/8). As a reward for an excellent season the team went to Holland during the Easter.
In 1929, Tom Goss took over as team secretary and introduced some junior plays from Tottenham Hotspurs to play for the club. These included Taffy O'Callaghan, Willie Evans, A.Day and W.Whatley all of whom became internationals and between them they gained 17 Welsh caps. The team went onto become runners-up in the 1929-30 Athenian League equalling their highest position for 10 years.
Optimism was high for the 1930-31 season, especially with new youngsters Lester Finch, Arthur Morris and Jack Richardson. Early defeats in a friendly with St. Albans (5-2) and in the league against Walthamstow Avenue (5-1) were followed by an unbeaten run to the last game of the season when beaten 3-2 by Sutton United. However, Barnet had already become champions of the Athenian League by 12 points. In 1931-32 Barnet repeated the league success winning the Athenian League by 3 points over Hayes. This season Barnet played 16 cup games. In the FA Cup they beat Dulwich Hamlet (winners of the Amateur Cup) before losing 7-3 to Queens Park Rangers at Underhill in front of 7,000 fans. They went all the way in the Middlesex Senior Cup for the first time. In 1932-33 they repeated the success in the Middlesex Senior Cup and were finalists in the London Senior Cup, losing to Ilford. In 1933-4 the club had a long run in the Amateur Cup, beaten in the semi-final by Leyton at Ilford. They finally won the London Senior Cup (which dates back to 1883) in 1938 when beating Leyton 4-0 at Highbury in front of 20,000 spectators.
In the Athenian league, Barnet were runners-up in 1937-8 but struggled in the other seasons to repeat the two earlier championships.
It was during this period that Lester Finch, Barnet born and bred, became England's regular outside-left between 1933 and 1939. The club also lost the services of Arthur Morris who some rate as one the finest centre forwards of the time. In eight seasons he scored 400 goals for the club.
1939 - 1950s
War Period 1939-45
With the Athenian League, FA Cup and Amateur Cup all suspended the club arranged a wartime league, the Herts. and Middlesex League becoming runners-up in the first season. During this period the club won the London Senior cup (1940-1), Herts. Senior Cup (1941-2, 1944-5), Herts. Charity Cup (1942-3, 1944-5), Herts. Hospital Cup (1942-3), Barnet Hospital Cup (1942-3), Herts. Middlesex League Cup (1944-5) and Finchley Hospital Cup (1944-5). Two players, J. Gerrans and J. McCarthy were honoured by being selected for the British Army. Sad news however for another promising player when it was learned that Sergt. Harold Faircloth M.M. had been killed. There was good news from Lieutenent Dennis Kelleher, R.N.V.R, who after being captured at Tobruk, succeeded in escaping from a prison camp in Germany.Arriving home in England on Thursday (3 weeks later) he played for the club on the Saturday, scoring two goals.
With the end of the war came the resumption of normal football in the season 1945-6. The club was fortunate in being able to call on most of their old players with the addition of a few newcomers and quickly became a formidable combination. In the FA Cup they get through the qualifying rounds and met Queens Park Rangers in a two-leg affair losing 6-2 at Underhill and 2-1 at Shepherds Bush. However, the high spot of this year was reaching the final of the Amateur Cup for the first time. In front of 53,802 spectators at Stamford Bridge Barnet beat Bishop Auckland 3-2.
In October 1946 the television cameras came to Underhill and televised "live" the game between Barnet and Tooting & Mitcham - the first ever football match to be televised for which the club was paid a nominal £5 royalties.
The 1946-7 season was one, if not the most, successful seasons the club has seen. For the second season running they reach the semi-final of the Amateur Cup, only to be beaten by Leytonstone. A record was created in London amateur football when the club won the London senior Cup, London Charity Cup and London Intermediate Cup. Then on the last day of the season a victory over Hendon at Claremont Road, Barnet became champions of the Athenian league for the third time. Early in 1947-8 season the club played Sing Tao Sports Club of Hong Kong the first Chinese club to visit England and 5000 spectators watched Barnet win 5-3.
In April 1948 the club reach the Amateur Cup final for a second time meeting their old friends Leytonstone in front of 59,605 spectators at Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately in a disappointing match Barnet lose 1-0. Consolation came when the championship of the Athenian league was secured for the fourth time.
Yet another Barnet player, George Wheeler, was honoured with an international cap and Dennis Kelleher became the second Barnet player to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games.
Success in the Athenian league was hard to come by in the fifties - in the first eight seasons the club finished 8th, 12th, 9th, 13th, 11th, 7th, 15th and 4th.
In March 1951 Barnet played in the Four-Nations Cup. The first game was lost 8-0 to Floridodorfer (Austria); the second a 4-0 win over Vejan Sportforerning. In September 1951 they played a team from the Gold Coast at Underhill losing 4-3.
The mid-fifties were a lean time for the club. Several administration changes and disbanding the "A" team for two youth XI's had little effect. The ground was also purchased by the council and leased back to the club.
Things got better in 1957-8 when they reached the semi-final of the Amateur Cup, finally losing 3-2 to Woking after a replay. In 1958-9 they nearly did the double - after winning the Athenian League they narrowly lost 3-2 to Crook Town in the Amateur Cup final. On the way to the final Barnet must have recorded the all time scoring record. In the second round they beat Willington 8-4 with the first three goals (one for Willington, followed by two for Barnet) scored in the first 75 seconds!
In 1959-60 they finished league runners-up spoiling the pattern of doing back-to-back doubles in Athenian championship wins (1931 & 32 and 1946 & 47).
1960s - 1980s
Success in the Athenian league continued in the early sixties. Third in 1960-1 was followed by two runners-up positions (1961-2 and 1962-3) and two championship positions in the Athenian Premier Division (1963-4 and 1964-5).
On 9th January 1965 Barnet reached the third round proper of the FA Cup meeting Preston North End (1964 FA Cup runners-up) at Underhill. Preston were 2-0 up in 10 minutes but were held to half time. In the second half Barnet, urged by 10,500 spectators, brought the game back to 2-2, before an own goal 2 minutes from time denied a well deserved replay.
Champions: 1931-2, 1932-3, 1946-7, 1947-8, 1963-4, 1964-5
Runners-up: 1912-3, 1929-30, 1937-8, 1959-60, 1961-2, 1962-3
In 1965 Barnet became a professional team joining the Southern League First Division ending the club’s 52-year association with the Athenian League.
In 1965-6 Barnet turned semi-professional. Before the season commenced, manager Dexter Adams made two astute signings. He persuaded Les Eason, then 20 years of age, to join from Finchley and then acquired amateur international Barry King from Hitchin, who became the first player to sign professional forms for the club. Jeff Voyce, Dennis Roach, Terry Casey and Reg Finch soon followed. The previous season's squad signed but preferred to retain their amateur status. The first game finished in Barnet's favour, a 10-1 win over Hinckley Athletic. Les Eason went on to score 31 goals in his first season as the club became champions of the Southern League Division I.
Promoted to the Southern League Premier for 1966-7 the club ended up 5th but had reached the Southern League Cup final only to lose to Guildford City over two legs.
In 1969-70 the FA Challenge Trophy was introduced and Barnet reached the semi-final before losing to Macclesfield 0-1 at Stoke. The club reached the third round of the FA Cup following season but lost 1-0 to Colchester, who went on to knock out Leeds in the next round.
The 1971-2 season proved one of the most successful. Using just 15 players for 80 competitive matches Barnet reached Wembley in the FA Challenge Trophy, losing 3-0 to Stafford Rangers and reached the final of the Southern League Cup, drawing 2-2 with Hereford on aggregate. The replay, played next season, was a 2-2 draw but Barnet went on to win 7-6 on penalties.
In 1972-3 Barnet put up a tremendous fight against Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the FA Cup. The match at Loftus Road ended 0-0 and the replay at Underhill drew in excess of 11,000 spectators. Rangers eventually won 3-0.
April 1974 the club suffered a tremendous blow by the death of its President, Mr George Sanderson, a man respected throughout the football world, and connected with the club since 1924.
In 1975 Barnet were relegated back to the Southern League Division I South but two years later they won the championship and returned to the Southern League Premier. It was during this period that many famous names played for the club including Jimmy Greaves, Marvin Hinton, Bob McNab, Terry Mancini and John Fairbrother. Jimmy Greaves, although playing in midfield, still ended the season leading goal scorer with 27 goals.
By virtue of their Premier Division positions in seasons 1977-8 and 1978-9 Barnet were given a place in the newly formed Alliance Premier League.
In the first three Alliance seasons, Barnet just avoided relegation, but in 1982-3 they finished 15th and a year later 9th. Then in 1984-5, when it looked like Barnet would face relegation, manager Barry Fry left to take charge at Maidstone United. The season was resurrected under the guidance of ex-player Roger Thompson losing only one of their remaining thirteen league games. Stan Flashman became the new chairman of the club.
In season 1985-86 they finished 14th but reached the final of the Bob Lord Trophy only to lose to old friends Stafford Rangers. Some consolation was a win over Watford in the Herts. Senior Cup final. Dom MacAllister replaced Roger Thompson and then in July 1986, Barry Fry returned, much to the delight of the supporters. He led Barnet to their best league position for many years finishing runners-up in the Vauxhall Conference scoring 86 goals.
Despite turbulent times off the field, during season 1986-7 the club maintained their scoring, again finishing runners-up, Scarborough taking the automatic position into the 4th Division. Lincoln City came down but in 1987-8 they returned ahead of Barnet in the championship. 1988-9 was another indifferent season - at one time looking like relegation prospects the team secured 8th place - in the process using no fewer than 47 players!
Amazingly 1989-90 saw Barnet yet again finish runners-up in the Vauxhall Conference. This time it was Darlington that took the top spot.
A good run in the 1990-1 FA Cup (Clapton, Braintree, Harlow, Heybridge Swifts, Chelmsford City and Northampton Town) culminated in a home defeat by Portsmouth in the 3rd round. Coming up to April 1991 the conference table was close; Barnet, Colchester, Kettering Town and Altrincham all in with a chance. The last game of season 1990-1 finally saw Barnet in the 4th Division.
Season 1991-92, the first season in League Division 4, the club finished a very creditable 7th and just missed being promoted in the playoffs after beating Blackpool at home 1-0 but succumbing to a 2-0 defeat in the away match.
In Season 1992-93, the old Division Four was re-designated Division Three on formation of the F.A. Premiership. The club had a successful campaign finishing 3rd and promotion to Division Two.
Division Two however proved a much more difficult task, the club losing 28 games in season 1993-4 and returned back to Division Three. A rare highlight in the season was 0-0 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (FA Cup 3rd round). Queens Park Rangers inflicted a 6-1 aggregate Defeat in the Football League Cup.
For the next seven seasons, Barnet maintained a position the League Division Three. There were two playoff seasons, 1997-8 (Barnet 1 Colchester United 0, Colchester United 3 Barnet 1 - Agg 2-3) and 1999-2000 (Barnet 1 Peterborough United 2,Peterborough United 3 Barnet 0, Agg 1-5). It was first round defeats against Woking in the FA Cup (1994-5 and 1995-6), Watford (1997-8), Hednesford Town (1998-9) and Burnley (1999-0) and a second round defeat against Wycombe (1996-7)
Barnet's ten year reign in the football league came to an end in Season 2000-1 with the club returning to the Conference, losing 25 games in the process. A final day winner-takes-all match against Torquay United saw the Bees condemned with a 3-2 defeat.
The first season in the Conference was mixed. A strong start kept the Bees near the top with pacesetters Dagenham & Redbridge and Boston United, however a nightmare Christmas period saw the Bees slip dramatically out of the race. Manager John Still resigned in February and was succeeded by Peter Shreeves and Martin Allen. They guided the side to 5th after some excellent late season form. Also, the Bees reached the Southern Area Semi Final of the LDV Vans Trophy, eventually losing 2-0 to Cambridge United.
Optimism was high for the following season, however Barnet found themselves languishing around mid-table for the majority of the season, eventually finishing 11th. Peter Shreeves resigned in March and was succeeded as caretaker boss by Martin Allen, his assistant. The ongoing battle with Barnet Council was also at the forefront of the club, with plans for a new stadium at South Underhill being rejected, again threatening the existence of the club in Barnet.
The 2003/2004 season saw a huge overhaul in playing staff and the effect was immediate. The Bees were well in contention for the Play-Offs throughout the season and were threatening Chester City for the top spot. In March however, Martin Allen left for the Bees of Brentford, a month before the end of the season. Paul Fairclough took over on a temporary basis and guided the team into the Play-Offs on the last day at home to Leigh RMI. The Bees were paired against Shrewsbury Town and were beaten on penalties at Gay Meadow having drawn 2-2 on aggregate. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Barnet were to come back bigger and stronger.
In 2004/2005, the Bees stormed the Conference, winning it by twelve points from Hereford United. Having gone top after a 1-0 win against Canvey Island in August, Barnet never looked back and stayed top for the rest of the season, destroying everything in their path. The first half of the season in particular was host to some scintillating performances as the goals flew in, home and away. The title was wrapped up with games and weeks to spare and supporters would be ready for life back in the Football League.
2005/2006 was a difficult return for the Bees. After a strong start, heading to the top of the league, the form soon slipped and Barnet toppled towards the bottom of the table. With the side struggling away from home in particular, it came down to the last day of the season at already relegated Rushden & Diamonds to be sure of survival. A 2-1 victory, the first away win since August saw that The Bees stayed up and finished 18th.
The season will surely be remembered by most Bees fans as the season they saw their side challenge the might of Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup. After beating Bristol City and Plymouth Argyle, supporters could not believe their luck as Manchester United were pulled out of the hat. However, a red card for Ross Flitney after two minutes tarnished the evening, but the remaining ten battled heroically and a 4-1 defeat was a harsh reflection on the game.
*With thanks to Bees supporter Tony Rayner for his help with this article.