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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Journey's end
By Chris Bevan

Paul Fairclough will fulfil his "lifelong ambition" of becoming a Football League manager when Barnet kick off the new campaign against Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

The 55-year-old has finally got his chance, 18 years after taking his first senior post at Hertford Town.

"I'm very much looking forward to it," Fairclough told BBC Sport. "It has been a long journey for me to get here.

"That is why the pyramid system in this country works - it allows people like me to realise their dreams."

Fairclough made his name at Stevenage Borough, leading them to three promotions and the Conference title in the 90s, only to be denied a tilt at the League in 1996 because their ground was not good enough.

"Not going up was a crushing blow at the time," Fairclough said. "At that stage I thought maybe it was going to pass me by.

I won four championships in six years and have had big FA Cup runs but I never had one offer from anyone in the Football League
Paul Fairclough

"But I regrouped and recharged and had another go, and I'm delighted that it has happened for me at Barnet.

"I'm really thrilled for the club and (chairman) Tony Kleanthous, and of course I am very happy about the situation myself."

Despite being one of the most successful non-league managers of the last decade, it became clear to Fairclough long ago that he was not just going to be handed a League post.

Barnet's promotion was an emotional day for Fairclough
Barnet's promotion was an emotional day for Fairclough

"I haven't applied for many League jobs before in the past, probably because I'm not that kind of person," he added.

"I've got lots and lots of confidence but I'm not someone who is going to push themselves forwards.

"I used to get phone calls from the odd journalist who would say to me 'why don't you apply for such and such?' and I did - and I would never even get a reply.

"That dented my confidence even more, and also made me wonder what is going on out there.

"I won four championships in six years, have had big FA Cup runs and am manager of the England non-league team - but I never had one offer from anyone in the Football League."

It was left to Fairclough to steer his own course, and he is proud of his achievements.

"It means more to me this way," he said.

"By not just grabbing a job that somebody has discarded, but instead designing it and creating it and taking us up - that is doubly satisfying."

And he will enjoy himself at Underhill on what will be a very special day, regardless of the result against Rovers.

Fairclough said: "My mum and dad, who are in their late 80s, are just beaming with pride and they will be coming down for the game.

"It is a massive moment for my family."


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