By Tony Dewhurst

There's a photograph on display in Barnet Football Club's Community Trust office that gathers further poignancy each week as autumn rolls into winter in the foothills of npower League 2.

Giuliani Grazioli, Barnet legend and the man who inadvertently became the club's caretaker manager with five games to go last season when Martin Allen unexpectedly quit after 19 days in charge, stares down from the wall with a dazed grin, and a mixture of relief and happiness.

Barnet's Community Development Officer is mobbed by adoring fans on the Underhill ground, and on a pitch that slopes so drastically that one goalkeeper's boots are level with another's crossbar.

They are celebrating Barnet's bullet-dodging 1-0 win over Port Vale, a great escape that kept them up and sent Lincoln City spinning back into the Blue Square Bet Premier Football Conference.

Barnet's feat of escapology was the second time in as many seasons that they have defied the drop on the final day and guaranteed the 123-year-old club at least one more season in The Football League.

Janet Matthewson, Barnet's Community Trust manager, just smiles when I point at the picture.

"You couldn't have made it up could you?

"Our Community Development Officer saving us from relegation - it was an incredible achievement - an amazing day.

"Hand on heart, though, it is always very eventful at Barnet."

Six years ago, Matthewson was a campaigning supporter, but when the chairman Tony Kleanthous asked her to run Barnet's Community Scheme, she took charge.

"The Chairman said to me, 'Janet, you are so passionate about Barnet, I want you to take over.'

"We started the Community programme with nothing. He gave me a portacabin full of junk.

"I had to find myself a desk and a telephone and I just got on with it.

"A club like Barnet just sucks you in - you can't help but follow them and support them.

"It became a mission for me really."

High Barnet, the tube stop at the end of the Northern Line, is a five minute walk from Underhill, but despite the proximity of glitzy neighbours Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, Janet has worked wonders to keep Barnet's community flag flying high.

"At the start, it was a campaign to get the club recognised in the community," she added.

"I spent four years fighting for the recognition that Barnet deserved."

She re-formed the "Keep Barnet Alive' campaign - determined to get the message out that this leafy part of North London had a football club that the community could be intensely proud of.

"We had a tremendous asset in Barnet Football Club, but I didn't believe the local politicians were taking us seriously," she said.

"I went to a few political meetings in the borough and I was really disgusted at the way the fans were treated.

"I felt they were looked down on because they were football supporters.

"Football has got a real social responsibility and can be used as a tool to engage so many people, and that's what the politicians didn't get.

"Barnet Football Club is what sells this little borough up and down the country every time we play a football match."

It is difficult to imagine anybody not being motivated by Janet's drive and burning enthusiasm for the Barnet cause.

"I said to the Chairman one day, 'Do you mind if I put a float in the local carnival?'

"He was a bit surprised I think. It was so important that we said, 'Look - this is who we are and this is what we can bring to the borough.'

"You need to support us or lose it.

"We re-created the East Terrace on both sides of the float with pictures and old kits illustrating the history of Barnet.

"There was so much effort and time went into it, but the politicians just turned their backs on us.

"That drove me on even more, and I think we've made a real difference since.

"There's a lot of goodwill from the community towards the football club, but there is still a lot of work to be done."

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