Wednesday 4th July 2018 ko 19.30
REDBRIDGE 3 (61 77 84)
Att c35 at Barnet Lane 3G
After my frankly life-changing tour of Sweden in June, save for the odd World Cup game on television I’d taken a break from all things football. I’ll admit it was unusual for me, I remember one close season lasting less than 24 hours! But I looked up the Football Traveller’s friendlies list and soon spotted a ground you can’t do during the regular season. A bonus was that it involved driving past the site of one of my favourite grounds of the past.
I loved Barnet’s former Underhill Ground; it was a wonderful hotchpotch of stands and a slope that reminded me of my club, Oxford United’s former home, the Manor Ground. I hated it when Oxford moved to the Kassam Stadium, however necessary the move was, and I was saddened when Barnet moved to The Hive in 2013. But with my game no more than 400 yards from the southern end of Underhill it was a reasonable excuse to stop and remember.
These days little more than the footprint remains, the metal superstructure of a new school is in place. Even Underhill’s famous slope has been levelled to the point that in a few months’ time there’ll be nothing to indicate that the likes of Barry Fry, Edgar Davids, and Jimmy Greaves were ever here.
The Barnet Lane 3G facility is one of those community-based football centres that do great work in fighting Britain’s obesity crisis, and are almost universally hated by groundhoppers. I understand completely why, save for the glimpse of the Underhill building site you could be virtually anywhere.
But for what it was built to do its a fine facility and with Hadley FC still having severe restrictions on use of their floodlights, and pitch maintenance in progress at their Arkley home it made sense to play this fixture here. It certainly attracted the hoppers, roughly half of the crowd has no connection to either side. The oddity is that no side calls this place home. You could add a modular stand and immediately have a Step 5 compliant ground. I wonder when a club will notice and make the move?
It proved to be a good game to watch too. In the end the rolling substitutions rather suited Essex Senior League outfit Redbridge better, perhaps they had the better strength in depth. Being it was the first game of the season I got soaked with just about the only rain for a month and the last for weeks. Nevertheless it was good to get back in the groove, but as I left I could resist glancing over to the remains of Underhill. I loved that place.