Having watched Conference football since 1997, Hereford United fan Richard Butler is eager for his team to escape non-League and once again compete with their Welsh rivals
Could Hereford’s gates increase significantly if they made it back into the Football League?
When we first broke into the Fourth Division in the 1970s, the club regularly drew crowds of 10,000, an astonishing figure for a town Hereford’s size, and we would once again be the only League club for about 50 miles in any direction. But sadly, 25 years of mostly mediocrity has made many folk cynical about the club. However, council plans for redevelopment of the “Edgar Street Grid” are in the pipeline, which could secure the long-term future of the club and may even mean a new stadium.
What have been your best and worst moments?
For those of us reared on tales of Ronnie Radford and Ricky George, the FA Cup is always eagerly anticipated. We’ve come close to repeating the exploits of 1972 a few times, such as the draws with Tottenham and Arsenal, and the third-round replay at Filbert Street in 1999, when we led Martin O’Neill’s Leicester with ten minutes to go before eventually going down 2-1 in extra time. The worst moment would be relegation from the Football League on the final day of the 1996-97 season, in the decider against Brighton. League status means everything to clubs like Hereford.
Have you established new rivalries since you’ve been in the Conference?
We enjoyed some derbies against Kidderminster, Cheltenham and Yeovil, before they got their act together and got promoted, usually taking our best players with them. We were delighted to resume rivalries with Shrewsbury this year. Sadly there aren’t any Welsh sides in the Conference and
Worcester City won’t be coming up any time soon.
Are there things you would miss about non-League football if you did return to the League?
The little social clubs inside away grounds where you can have a pint and often watch the action at the same time. Seeing the team put five, six and seven goals past the opposition has been fantastic – I fear defences might be less generous in Division Three. But overall, we’re desperate to get back into the big time and, if we can do it with our 18-strong squad of free transfers, there won’t be too many regrets.
Milestones & Millstones
1924 The club is formed when two teams, RAOC and St Martins, merge to join the Birmingham Combination.
1939 Hereford United are admitted to the Southern League.
1948 Charlie Thompson scores eight in an 11-0 FA Cup win over Thynnes Athletic.
1953 United become one of the first clubs to install floodlights.
1958 Lose 3-0 in the Cup to Sheffield Wednesday in front of a record 18,114.
1971-72 Colin Addison takes over. We finish runners-up in the Southern League. In the FA Cup, Ronnie Radford scores the “goal of the century” against Newcastle in a 2-1 win. We lose a fourth-round replay at West Ham, but are elected to the League.
1973 With David Icke in goal, we are promoted to Division Three.
1974 Beat West Ham 2-1 in the Cup at Edgar Street, in front of 17,000.
1976 Under John Sillett, Hereford win Division Three. Dixie McNeil is top scorer in the Football League for the second successive season.
1977 Relegated from Division Two. For the first and only time, off-duty SAS men act as stewards when Wolves visit.
1978 Relegated to Division Four.
1980-83 The club has to apply for re-election to the League three times.
1987 Hereford’s record win in the Football League, 6-0 at Burnley.
1990 Win the Welsh Cup, beating Wrexham 2-1. Finish in the coveted 17th spot in the bottom division, then retain it for the four years.
1996 Graham Turner leads his side from 18th in January to the play-offs.
1997 A 1-1 draw with Brighton
Steve White ~ The star player in the best side for nearly two decades. Chalky signed on a free from Swindon in 1994 and scored 18 goals in his first season. The following year his 32 goals propelled the club into the Third Division play-offs and made him the top scorer in the Football League. Not bad for a 37-year-old.
Peter Hill ~ After we were relegated to the Conference, it emerged the chairman and his regime had accepted a £1 million loan from property developers in exchange for the leases on the ground. Even now we’re prohibited from buying players because of the agreement with creditors.
From WSC 205 March 2004. What was happening this month