Painful Pool memories of Barnet away

Barnet manager Martin Allen

Barnet manager Martin Allen

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Barnet away, a game which strikes dread into the hearts of Blackpool fans - with good reason.

Although they now play in a sparkling new stadium at The Hive, last time the Seasiders travelled to north London to face the Bees it’s fair to say things didn’t quite go to plan.

Steve McMahon was the manager 16 years ago when his then struggling side were hammered 7-0 at Underhill.

The result left Blackpool bottom of the whole Football League, something shocking when you look at the team sheet.

Paul Simpson, Richie Wellens, Danny Coid, John Hills, John Murphy and even Brett Ormerod all started that day – all names which would later play a part for the club much higher up the football pyramid.

Luckily for the Seasiders the result was a blip, Blackpool went onto win promotion that season via the play-offs, while Barnet ended up being relegated to non-league.

Many claim to have been in attendance that day as a badge of true supporter honour, but if you’ve seen the Seasiders play Barnet over the years then you’re certainly part of a rare bunch.

The two clubs have only met eight times in history, with four of those coming in one season in 1991/92 when Billy Ayres’ men played Barnet in the semi-finals of another successful play-off campaign.

Since 2001 the fortunes of the clubs couldn’t really have been more different, while Blackpool embarked on a rise to the Premier League, Barnet have been in an out of the Conference, finally gaining promotion back to the Football League last summer as champions.

Because of that, the gap between the two sides has closed, and if current boss Martin Allen has anything to do with it, it won’t be long before they are regularly facing each other.

“This club have a history of struggling and I want to buck that trend,” said Allen. “I want to be challenging at the top rather than fighting at the bottom.

“We are determined to build for the future and I have told the players I do not want to sit around. I want to go up this season. There are some big clubs in this division with big budgets well above ours but that does not mean we cannot put ourselves forward to challenge them. And for want of a better term, let them have it.”

Barnet are moving in the right direction after two years in non-league football. The Bees are enjoying life at The Hive, which opened two years ago, and Allen says chairman Tony Kleanthous has given him “tremendous backing financially” to build a squad capable of doing well this season.

The Bees have not been in the third tier of English football since 1994 but Allen’s track record suggests he could be the man to get them there. He led Gillingham to the League Two title two years ago with one of the smaller budgets in the division.

“Pre-season with the bookmakers, Gillingham were not even tipped to be in the play-offs,” said Allen. “So it is possible. We have some very good players. You do not win the Conference like we did last season, being top for the whole season, by having a group of lightweights. We do not have the biggest budget but we can still thrive.”