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Sunshine and smiles for Barnet
A foggy day in London Town early on Saturday ended with sunshine and smiles in Cleethorpes at around 4.50pm with Barnet FC winning their first game of the season against Grimsby Town with a solitary goal.
My first reaction, though, to the euphoria of this rare victory - the first time the Bees have ever won at Blundell Park, which is in Cleethorpes, - was to spare a thought for Mr Shah, my newsagent in Church Road, Hendon.
I had warned Mr Shah of my promise to Barnet manager Paul Fairclough to give up smoking when the side won a game; my post-match concern was how his business might survive with plummeting sales due to my decision.
Credit crunch and Wall Street are one thing - a no-smoking Signy is an additional financial hazard of some serious measure. I've tried reassuring Mr Shah that I might make up his money buying jelly babies. He's putting on a brave face .. I guess he reckons he hasn't heard the last of "10 Mayfair, please".
So - the masochistic Gang of Four set off on the latest big adventure, fellow Barnet director Graham Slyper at the wheel of his BMW. He was booked in for a birthday treat drive around Silverstone the next day and he used the M1 and the M180 for a trial run to get us to Cleethorpes in under three hours.
If any police patrolmen are reading this, please accept that I may have exaggerated Graham's speedy motorway run to give him post-Silverstone cred.
The Mail on Sunday reported that Barnet's victory was achieved in "an awful match". I'd go along with that. The reporter also said that Neal Bishop's matchwinning goal was "bundled home".
As I told everyone before the game that I'd be happy with a one-nil achieved with a scrappy goal off someone's backside, "bundled" sounds a bit superior. The fact is that the score was recorded as Grimsby 0, Barnet 1 (Bishop). It doesn't say for posterity 'Bishop, bundled goal' and the three points for the win have lifted Barnet above their opponents.
Paul Fairclough, the Barnet manager, reported after the final whistle: "The players and myself are all emotionally and physically drained". As a spokesman for the club, I think I can record that the chairman, the Gang of Four and some 80 or so emotional travelling supporters all spent a testing and physically draining time willing referee Evans to blow the final whistle from the moment that the Bees went ahead before half time.
Full marks to the referee though. He booked both Kenny Gillet and Ashley Carew - then lectured them for further offences that might have produced a more severe reaction.
Paul Fairclough descibed the players as "emotional and spiritual WARRIORS". The rest of us, I guess, were emotional and spritual WORRIERS, wasting our lives away watching the clock and ticking off the seconds.
Actually I felt more contented than emotional at the end of the game - but that could be because of the splendid fish and chips and jam roll and custard I was served in the Chairman's Lounge.
I don't know if Paul included my no-smoking resolution in his team talk but I'd like to think that I had a part in the long awaited victory... perhaps the players were emotional at the thought of me disappearing in a puff of smoke and Did it for Den.
A conversation piece for the Gang of Four - the chairman calls the other three my "carers" on trips north of Watford - was the appointment of Joe Kinnear as interim manager of Newcastle United following Kevin Keegan's departure.The shock news hit football on Friday - a huge surprise to those of us who had sat with Joe, who has been out of management for four years, in the director's box at Underhill for the home game against Bury.
Mind you, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley produced a wry smile for us when he said on TV that Joe was going in at Newcastle until they appointed "a proper manager".
Joe, who lives near the Rising Sun along Totteridge Lane, is often at Underhill with his grandson. We discussed the merits of some of the Barnet players on his visit last week — perhaps he'll come knocking on the Underhill door if he wants some class at St James' Park.
Footnote: The demise of Edgware Town, for whom I played at the age of 16 , is sad and nostalgic. So, too, is the news that the doors of Claremont Road are now closed - I got through a hole in the fence on the Clitterhouse Park side of the ground to see Hendon play, my first-ever game of football all those decades ago.