Reckless speaks to Steve Percy who last weekend marked his 50th consecutive year following the Bees, only missing one match in the process!
Las Saturday's game against Coventry City marked a special event for supporter Steve Percy - surely everybody at Barnet FC knows Steve? It is 50 years ago to the day for Steve's first ever visit to Underhill, on 7th October 1967.
Barnet 3-3 Cheltenham (Ward (pen) Figg and Turley) Attendance: 2,116
McClelland, Thompson, Jenkins, Ward, Roach, King, Ratty, Eason, Figg, Searle and Turley. Sub Smith
What is so special about this man as many have been watching the Bees for longer? Well “Perc” incredibly, since season 1968-69, hasn't missed one single home game and only one away! Reflect on that statistic just for a moment. It is simply a dumbfounding commitment to his club.
It doesn't end there either. Steve has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the club's ups and downs and personnel, has kept meticulous hand written records of results and line ups (he doesn't do computers or mobile phones) and as member and Chairman of the Supporters Association for over 40 years he and his long suffering wife of 35 years ran the coaches to away games. His house, by the way, in Potters Bar is called “Underhill”.
Steve was born in Barnet in May 1955 although “I've never lived there” and grew up in Edmonton and as a kid he was a Spurs fan. “The whole family are and Jimmy Greaves was my favourite. A mate called Kenny Turner was always on about going to Barnet and I tagged along one day and as soon as I got to the ground that was it. Walking down the alleyway by the Old Red Lion I didn't realise it was a proper ground, with turnstiles a 2,000 plus crowd and floodlights. That smell of liniment on the players is still so vivid I was hooked. That first game was Cheltenham at home finished 3-3 and as they say, the rest is history.”
The actual statistics are mind blowing – Steve hasn't missed any first team home game in any competition since October 12th 1968 amounting to 1,335 consecutively and has missed just one solitary away game (in 1981) since December 1972!
“I still get mad when I think of that day. It was Boxing Day 1981 v Enfield, 12 o'clock kick off and when I phoned the ground in the morning it was off due to snow and a frozen pitch. I then had a Boxing Day doing something else other than watch Barnet. When I read the local newspaper, the game it turned out it had been played much later in the day and was arranged because both Barnet and Enfield wanted to free players of their suspensions for their up and coming money-spinning 3rd Round FA games against Brighton and Crystal Palace respectively. How on earth on a frozen pitch could it have be played later in the day as the temperature dropped? I phoned Manager Barry Fry and gave him some serious verbal abuse. Yes, it still boils my blood all these years later”.
“As a teenager I got involved with the Supporters Association and during the close season a bunch of us would religiously be at Underhill every weekend painting barriers or the social club or the tea bars, any general maintenance. I took over the transport to away games in 1974 and eventually I was put forward as Chairman not expecting to get any votes but I did and got elected. With the sad demise of the Supporters Association I still run a Minibus to every game to this day" said Steve.
“When I finally get put into my box I was hoping for the ashes to be scattered in the goal in front of the West Bank at Underhill but now I will have to make other plans as I don't fancy being buried under a delicatessen counter at Tesco!”
“My favourite tale? I was asked by my brother to be Best Man at his wedding but I apologised and said “I can't as Barnet are playing Telford United that day but I will be at the Reception later!”
As of today, Steve has chalked up 1,924 consecutive home and away games, not including friendlies and reserve games which he has also attended. Lord knows how many without the disaster of Enfield? His favourite away ground? “Torquay, just because of everything associated with the area, we always stay over for that one.”
We are not the only club who have supporters who have shown this degree of loyalty and allegiance but it would be interesting to find anyone else who can match or better Steve's commitment. I wager they are very few, if they exist at all.
Steve's chosen all time Barnet line up from his 50 years? In his words “This team will surprise a few people and it would not win Cups and Leagues but it would play the type of football I love and would be a joy to experience”
J McClelland, K Stephens, L Primus, G Heald, P Jenkins, C Powell, K Lowe, P Showler, D Freeman, J Greaves, N Evans. Subs M Taylor, S King, P Wilson, L Eason, S Devine.