Hereford United. Punching Above Their Weight...
Not since the 1972 FA cup have people outside of the Wye Valley uttered the words Hereford United.
As a Newcastle fan myself i'm fully aware (albeit ten years before i was born) of Hereford's cup exploits in the third round and that 'goal' by Ronny Radford to level the scores at 1-1. In the 103rd minute, Herefords sole substitute Ricky George sends 16,000 fans and a 26 year old John Motson (his first ever commentary) into raptures as he knocks Newcastle out!
36 years later and the good times have returned to Edgar Street.
Two promotions in three seasons has seen Hereford jump from the conference to League 1 and now the joys of games against Leicester City and hopefully Leeds United.
On the back of a FA cup run last season which saw Hereford reach the 4th round for the first time loosing to eventual finalists Cardiff City, the Meadow end fans now have major cause to be over the moon.
Full credit to The MK Dons (Paul Ince) and Peterborough United (Darren Ferguson) for being heads and tails above the rest of the league as they cemented their places in League 1 with weeks rather than games remaining. But with the money available to Ince and the goal scoring abilities of Aaron McLean at Peterborough it's no surprise to see these two teams being promoted in 1st and 2nd.
Hereford on a shoestring budget, a new team with loan players and free agents in most positions and a Manager (Graham Turner) who also boasts the titles of Chairman, Director of Football and club owner would admit a mid-table finish to be more than acceptable.
All season long players have been competing with the 'big boys'. Theo Robinson and Toumani Diagouraga on loan from Watford have been stand out performers all season and the early season magic of Lionel Ainsworth saw Hereford show they were more than capable of competing at the top end of the table.
Lionel Ainsworth had soon made big impressions and was quickly snapped up by Watford who inturn let Hereford keep Robinson and Diagouraga until the end of the season.
After the departure of Ainsworth, fans felt the team had lost their most potent attacking threat and were waiting for the inevitable drop off in performance. Turner (incidentally the 2nd longest serving manager in English football behind Sir Alex Ferguson) prevented any such drop as Trevor Benjamin and Steve Guinan found a bit of form.
In steps Sherjill McDonald a product of the Ajax youth academy and currently of Premiership new boys West Brom.
For one month Hereford look unbeatable as McDonald finds the net six times in seven games during his emergency loan. No sooner had he become a fan favourite and he was back off to West Brom as Turner was unable to stretch the loan time of a quality player.
Time for expected drop number two. Now though there is more faith amongst fans for the team rather than the odd star player and the backing from League 1's best fans pushed United to the top of the league. Then came the drop...
Mk Dons and Peterborough soon re-establish their positions at the top as Hereford drop points and all of a sudden are looking closely over their backs as Rochdale, Darlington and Stockport close in for the third automatic promotion slot.
This was to be Hereford's season and with one game left a win at Brentford and a loss for Stockport against Barnet see's the Bulls return to the third tier of English football for the first time in 30 years.
Credit to the players for maintaining their levels of football for the entire season, but for me the major credit lies at the feet of Mr. Hereford United Graham Turner!
During his 12 and a half years at the club he has purchased just 2 players for a total of £40,000. He's saved the club from financial ruin, stuck with them through thick and thin, and unleashed some footballing gems in Paul Parry and Gavin Mahon.
Quite simply Graham Turner has put his entire life into Hereford United and taken a David into a world of Goliaths!
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