The lip-smackingly enticing conference fixture next year of Barnet vs FC Halifax Town following Barnet’s relegation and Halifax’s promotion makes me think back to the 2000/1 season to some unlikely connections and sore memories.
Those of you who can remember back to that sorry season will recall that we had a terrible start, with one solitary 1-0 win against Bournemouth in August. That season, newly liberated by the kids getting that much older I re-started attending every game, home and away. This included the 4-0 drubbing at Swansea and a long trek to Sunderland the following Tuesday night to see a 3-0 woeful defeat. Fortunately I arranged a meeting in Washington the following morning, to excuse the long journey.
By mid-October, that Bournemouth win was still our only one. I had missed only one game all season and guess what, it was the Bournemouth game (we went my niece’s Christening near Hull I recall). I was desperate (and so was the team frankly) and also convinced of my ‘Jonahcy’ to coin a word. It was all my fault. Fate was paying me back for not being at home with the young family.
Saturday 21st October gave Luton another chance of a win. I was working in Mill Hill on the Saturday morning and it was touch and go that I would make the game against Brentford in time. Instead, to give the Hatters some relief from my presence and chance of victory I went to Underhill for first time and sat in the main stand and watched Barnet against Halifax.
I think Halifax were on the back of a number of straight defeats that day and were pretty bloody dreadful. They looked like a team that had lost all hope. Their support was thin, noisy and neanderthal and I was glad that Luton, despite being in a terrible position at the time, would never be as badly off as poor Halifax (how I chuckle now). Ironically, it was Barnet who were relegated that season, with Halifax finishing just above them, which was a surprise in hindsight. Perhaps I’d left a little bit of that Mosque bad luck behind? Luton were to play Halifax (well, thrash them) the following season on our way back and Halifax’s way down.
The game itself was instantly forgettable – a glance at the website reminded me that it was a 1-0 win to Barnet, though my memory had Barnet as 3-0 winners, perhaps my memory better reflected the gulf in the teams during the match.
On that day the Barnet team was managed by a certain JohnStill. I remember his programme notes even to this day (they went on and on about Scott McGleish) and the Barnet team contained a clearly-the-best-player-on-the-pitch Darren Currie who tormented the Halifax right back in slow motion. I think Lil Fucillo was JohnStill’s assistant around this time too – but to be fair, can’t recall him on the day.
One other thing – the referee was a very young Mark Clattenburg, clearly on his way up to better things.
As for Luton…in my absence the mighty Hatters recorded the second win of the season, galvanised by my absence obviously. I was delighted.
I returned to Kenilworth Road the following Saturday to see the Hatters play Wrexham. 2-0 up at half time, and shortly 3-0 in the second half and I felt my attendance-curse was well and truly over. Why was I worrying? Stupid superstition – how could I ever have been so arrogant and indulgent as to think my presence was having an effect on the fortunes of the club! I thumbed my nose at the footballing Gods. Alas, those of us there on that day will all recall what happened next. Those around me were screaming and shouting louder and louder as the Wrexham goals went in. I wasn’t. I had my head in my hands thinking “What have I done? What have I done?” If ever a game was to reinforce your personal paranoia it was that one: 3-4.
You can map my attendance at games that season by the results should you look. I didn’t see them win again until the following season. I attended dozens of games without actually seeing a win. In fact, I didn’t see the mighty Hatters win a game between April 1999 and August 2001. Mates were virtually paying me to stay away. I always have a soft spot for Southend, for they were the side who were to allow me to break my long run of defeats and draws and to break the bad luck once and for all.
Well, sort of.