On the road: Underhill back on slippery slope to the drop
21:50 GMT, 8 April 2012
While a good portion of the planet
watched Barcelona beating AC Milan at the Nou Camp last Tuesday night,
an even bigger portion ignored Barnet losing to Swindon Town at
There were 99,000 at the Nou Camp; it is a setting that implies greatness.
There were 2,000 at Underhill; it has a slope that suggests subsidence.
Barnet know about sliding away. Swindon's 2-0 victory left the Bees 22nd in League Two, our old fourth division.
Finish 23rd or 24th and you're relegated, which Barnet were in 2001.
The ups and downs of football: While Di Canio (left) is looking up, Sanchez (right) faces a struggle
It took them four seasons and four managers to get out of the Conference. Tuesday's loss left Barnet as one of six teams at the bottom separated by six points with six games to go.
That's a devilish mix.
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Cleaning up: Sanchez took Wycombe to an FA Cup semi-final
It is a curiosity to find Sanchez here in an alleged 'office', so small there is no desk.
'We don't live beyond our means,' he said.
Such circumstances breed realism. Sanchez could have requested some appreciation for his efforts last April and May but he looks at others too.
'Getting out last year was a massive achievement,' he said, 'but as well as we did, Lincoln won none of their last 11 games. That's as much why we stayed up – by a point. This season is in our own hands.
'Teams like Northampton, Bradford, Plymouth, should not be in this position. The finances they've had over the years, to be down here is a nonsense. Macclesfield, Dagenham, Hereford and ourselves – we're the four teams with the lowest wages in the division. There's the correlation, much as chairmen don't want to know it. It'll be a dogfight until the last day.'
It has taken Barnet 48 points to stay up on the last day and that is Sanchez's target again.
It will not be easy – Barnet have 39 and the worst goal difference in the bottom six.
This afternoon fourth-place Crawley go to Underhill and a trip to fifth-place Southend comes after Hereford.
Loss of League status hits hard economically.
League Two clubs receive 450,000 per season from the Football League.
That is halved after relegation, for one season. A 215,000 'solidarity payment' from the Premier League disappears.
Youth funding goes too.
So, generally, do fans and sponsors.
The overall first-season drop is accepted to be around 600,000. Pride also suffers. Next year is the club's 125th anniversary and could be the last at Underhill.
It would be 'poignant', Sanchez said, to celebrate it as a League club.
'Look at those who've gone down: Lincoln last season, Wrexham, Grimsby, Luton – there'll be half a dozen teams in the Conference bigger than Barnet – and they've found it hard to get back up. They haven't. And it hits year on year.
'Barnet would survive relegation, the chairman is quite shrewd and the club would cut their cloth accordingly. But I've been in relegation battles when I went into Fulham and Wycombe, and here, and one thing I'd say is that it's easier to stay up than to go down and come back. That's proven by teams I've just mentioned.
'I've never been relegated as a manager, I had it once as a young player at Reading. It's a stain that you do not want. Nobody benefits.'
Tension bites in Bristol
It will be squeamish at Underhill on Friday and there will be similar feelings at Ashton Gate on Monday afternoon.
Bristol City produced an unforeseen victory at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
It leaves them one point above relegation at kick-off.
The team a point below are Coventry City, Monday's visitors.
A Bristol win would feel like a knockout blow, though only until the next match.
That's how tight it is.
Only Doncaster Rovers, bottom and eight points from safety, look incapable of staying in the Championship; even Portsmouth, two points better off, are still striving.
Failure is proving to be some motivation. In one of the last five games even Barnsley, 18th, probably need a win.
It would be big news if it came at Blackpool.