I have travelled to away games by plane, train, tube, car, bus (open top and public), coach, motorcycle and ferry to watch my club but the invitation of an away game by stretched limousine in the lap of luxury was just too good to refuse.

If you were a regular away follower of Barnet Football Club you will have clocked up, not including over-shooting motorway junctions and getting lost following one of my guides, around 5,000 road miles during the course of this season alone. Multiply that by the number of seasons you have been a supporter and that is a lot of fuel, wine gums, cold sausage rolls and lengthy periods of silence!
Way back in March 2001 - is it really 14 years ago?- Steve Mann wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday with a trip to Halifax Town, and he had stumbled on a rather exceptional way of celebrating it. Around £500 (how much now I shudder to think) acquired the use of an 9-seater, leather upholstered, teak trimmed, blacked-out, head-turning 5.5 litre Lincoln limousine complete with televisions, video (vhs), cocktail cabinet, air conditioning and quadraphonic sound system, from 10am to 10pm with distance and destination no object - quality you will agree?
The Usual Suspects

At 9.30 am, via McDonalds in Barnet for coffee, our little suited and booted firm of 8 congregated outside the Queens Arms for a photo shoot in front of the black beauty and to load the enormous boot with the copious amounts of beer and snacks! Ray the pony-tailed chauffeur, who hailed from St Louis and therefore must have set off really early, greeted us not only with a very pleasant disposition but also with an ominous warning about the ride characteristics of the vehicle and that if any body didn’t travel too well or indeed over indulges themselves on the journey, they are well advised to sit by one of the doors!

The first crate of beer was opened as we approached the High Barnet Underground station, and Mannie was soon passing round the samosas, savoury eggs, sausage rolls (told you), tuna fish and sweetcorn sandwiches (I threw my one of those out the window thank you), cashew nuts, peanuts and Pringles to the singing of ‘Happy Birthday To You’. 

A service area stop somewhere near Coventry for ‘nature calls’ and more photographs allowed us to stock up on a few more nibbles, and inflate our ego’s even further as increased attention from other day trippers focused on our transport, and with my old Bees scarf wedged in the sun roof too.

We had telephoned ahead to the Shay and had been most graciously offered a guaranteed parking space in the main car park alongside the players coach. The limo certainly caused a few eyes to pop out as if on stalks as the locals and a few youths in Halifax tracksuits waited with baited breath to see which celebrities would be stepping out of its doors. We alighted as dignified as the alcohol in-take would allow as the disappointed sighs swept around the car park. There was no Rod Stewart or Noel Gallagher, just us! We decided to try and gain entry into the Banqueting Suites rather than slum it in a pub and whether it was our dress code or just Keith Doe’s £5 back hander to the doorman, we were in. 

Compliments came thick and fast from the barstaff and a £40 whip easily made nearly 3 rounds of drinks (those were the days) . The great John Doolan and his dad, John Senior were seated at a table and before nipping off to the changing rooms JD proudly introduced us to this jovial Evertonian and his Dad then duly joined us for a chat and a beer. Yes I did remember the 1969-70 Everton midfield of Howard Kendall and Alan Ball together with the famous own goal by Sandy Brown, Johnny Morrisey, Jimmy Husband and England full backs Henry Newton and Tommy Wright etc etc!

I shall delete this space planned for a paragraph to report on the match in view of the performance but for the record we lost 0-3 in front of 1,639.

Back in the Banqueting Suite after the game, another £40 whip disappeared rather quickly. Soon it was back to the limo for the journey home. More local envious looks and a wave and a chuckle from the Barnet players on their coach accompanied our shaky walks from bar to car. Within seconds of leaving the Shay the next crate of beer was opened as a refreshed Ray sped us off towards the M62. During the toilet stop and refuelling of the Lincoln, Statto was made to endure an extremely degrading walk through the service station as after zipping up his fly and washing his hands, Mannie splashed water all over the crotch area and down the right leg of his very light coloured suit trousers.

A brilliantly riotous sing-a-long to the superb sound system and consumption of the remaining beers was in theory going to signify the end of a fabulous day out, however there was a twist in the tale. A rear tyre blow out at 85mph on the M1 at junction 24 sounded like Armageddon to 8 drunken pairs of ears but full credit goes to Ray who superbly manoeuvred the limo onto the hard shoulder safely. 

The sight of the huge real wheel buckled and without a tyre was quite chilling, as was the evening air, as was also the remains of the tyre rubber rescued by Andy Morgan about 100 yards back on the grass bank. We took more photos, had more wee wee’s and swallowed more beer on the roadside as Ray completed the wheel change to a hearty round of applause.

What do you do when the beer and the Sunny Delight, laced with Vodka, runs out? Our solution was sing louder and laugh longer as we neared home. Ray dropped me off virtually outside my door and then after goodnights and handshakes all round the Lincoln disappeared into the Potters Bar night bound I think for Wood Green. There might have been two Limos, not sure!

Back in my front room armchair with a coffee reflecting on the game and reading the programme, it appeared to be a disappointing day at least from one angle. Yet from others it was a pure delight and a pleasure to be chauffeured around in style in luxurious comfort, and in great company representing Barnet FC. Would I do it again, yes most definitely.
I recommend the experience to anybody but prepare yourself for a day of glamour, excitement and unadulterated ego-lifting fun.

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