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Percy Plays for Barnet!

Interview by Phil Snow

It must be every football fans dream to run out onto the pitch in their clubs' colours and play for their team. It can't happen very often but for Barnet superfan Steve Percy that dream came true on Tuesday the 2nd December 2003 when Barnet played Ware in the Herts Senior Cup.

I caught up with Steve 24 hours later to hear the tale of a game that didn't quite turn out as expected…

Phil: Congratulations Steve on finally getting a game for Barnet, How long have you been coming to Underhill?

Steve: Since 1967, about 36 years.

Phil: And you've been to every game since then?

Steve: Well, I've been to every home game since 1968 and only missed one game in the last 30 odd years and that was against Enfield which had been postponed earlier in the day due to a frozen pitch, but it was miraculously played later that day even though it hadn't warmed up!

Phil: This wasn't the first time you've played at Underhill was it?

Steve: No I've played for the Supporters team here, in fact when I was sitting on the bench next to Frazer Toms I said 'Do you realise there's only two people in this team today that have actually scored at Underhill and that's you and me'

Phil: When you won the raffle at the beginning of the season what were your first thoughts?

Steve: I didn't win the raffle because I didn't buy any tickets. My wife Ann bought them and she said to me after the game that she thought one of the numbers had won. I didn't realise it was going to be drawn then, I thought it was going to go on for the season. But she insisted I had won and Kevin Mullen confirmed it the next day.

Phil: Ann obviously didn't want the prize then and let you have it!

Steve: Yeah, that's right, some people might think it's a fix but I can honestly say I didn't know anything about it and the numbers were drawn out of a box with no-one knowing who had which numbers.

Phil: So when did you know you were going to be on the bench against Ware?

Steve: The club phoned me up last Tuesday just as we were going to leave for Scarborough and asked me to phone Martin Allen. He wanted me to go and sign a form, but then they phoned back and said not to worry because the forms I had already signed covered me. Although I think the people from Ware were trying to dispute that!

Phil: Did you think you were just going to sit on the bench?

Steve: Yeah, I thought it was good publicity and a good insight into what goes on before the game and at half time. It was interesting listening to what Martin Allen and Adrian Whitbread have to say during the course of the game, which you wouldn't normally see.

Phil: So what happened?

Steve: Well, I think the Ware management weren't very happy with the situation, especially when I started warming up. One of them said something and Martin Allen replied 'Nobody tells me who to bring on at my club, I'll bring on who I want'. I think that then emphasised the fact that I was going on.

Phil: Do you think they thought we weren't taking it seriously?

Steve: Yeah, there is that to it, but we were winning 4-1 and it was the last 5 minutes. Also they had a bloke playing for them who looked as fit as I am and he's supposed to be a proper player!

Phil: What did martin Allen say to you? Did he just say 'you're on'?

Steve: He told me to get out there, play up front and hang around the centre circle. But I thought I could do a bit more than that and wind them up a bit by running offside then come back on at the last minute.

Phil: What went through you head as you stepped out on the pitch?

Steve: I thought you were going to say 'What went through me!!'

Phil: I'll get onto that in a minute…I mean was it better than expected.

Steve: It was a really unreal sensation, even though I played on there before for the supporters team and we did get gates of 2-3 hundred people in those days, it was still a big thrill. Also being a Herts Senior cup match and a sort of first team fixture it'll be in the record books.

Phil: So, you received the ball and then what happened?

Steve: I'd been on for a minute or so and saw the ball coming towards me and managed to get a reasonable touch on it, flicking it off to a Barnet player. The next thing I know someone's come through the back of me, it was a really bad tackle and took me straight out. He should have been sent off but the Referee booked him, but prior to that other Ware players had come over pushing and shoving, which resulted in a Ware player getting his second yellow and sent off.

Phil: Did the Barnet players join in?

Steve: Yeah, they came to my aid; there was a bit of handbags and that, but no harm done.

Phil: I bet that was a bit of a shock, rather than coming on and scoring a great goal that happened.

Steve: I suppose I take it as a compliment that they managed to get that wound up to react like that.

Phil: Yeah, in the Arsenal friendly when Steve Pankhurst came on they all stood back…

Steve: Well they certainly didn't do that!

Phil: What happened afterwards?

Steve: We were kept on the pitch for a minute or two so they could get down the tunnel, then we went back to the changing rooms for a talk from Mr. Whitbread and Mr. Allen. It was good to hear them talk about playing the ball to feet, getting behind people and not humping it up the pitch. Also enjoying their football. It was really refreshing to hear.

Phil: Does he come across passionately in the changing room?

Steve: Very much so, he talks a lot of sense and with a deal of humour as well, which helps everyone relax and go from strength to strength.

Phil: Has it changed your outlook from the terrace, the next time they're not playing so well…

Steve: No … Not really!

Just to finish up the piece when asked if he thought Steve should have played Martin Allen replied, 'I make it clear that I will only pick players that are proud to wear the Barnet shirt and Steve fits into that category'.

Not long after Steve's first touch!

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