Brian Viner: A Bulls'-eye view at Edgar Street stirs fond memories of glorious deeds of giant-killing

All supporters of Premier League football clubs should, in my humble opinion, go to see the odd game between teams several divisions lower. It's not only better for the wallet, it's also good for the soul.

A week ago yesterday I went to Edgar Street to see my local team, Hereford United of League Two, play Leeds United of League One in the first round of the FA Cup. It was wonderful. I had forgotten the spirit that envelops a small, ramshackle football stadium on cold, autumnal nights, not to mention the smell that envelops Edgar Street in particular; the smell of apples being pressed at the nearby Bulmer's cider factory.

My son Joe and I were invited by my friend Simon, whose company sponsored the match. Simon is a lifelong Hereford fan, and it would be wrong to compare his anticipation of the match with that of a child on Christmas Eve only in the sense that no child on Christmas Eve was ever as excited. He phoned umpteen times in the week before the match to remind me that it was the first time Hereford had ever played Leeds, and indeed the first time Leeds had played in the first round of the FA Cup for 86 years. I stoked Simon's excitement by telling him that the last time I saw Leeds play live, the opposition was Barcelona, in the group stages of the Champions League. It wasn't that long ago, either. Never mind the subsequent plummet in Leeds' fortunes, could Hereford beat the team that mighty Barcelona failed to beat seven years ago almost to the night at Elland Road?

In the first half I sat next to another friend of Simon's, a lovely fellow called Farmer. Only in Herefordshire are you likely to encounter a man whose first name, as well as his occupation, is Farmer. Incidentally, in 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain, Dr George Gallup, the man who gave his name to the Gallup poll, travelled around England asking people if they had heard of Winston Churchill. Surprisingly, only 96 per cent had. And the four per cent who had not were all Herefordshire farmers, with more important things to worry about, like getting the sheep fleeced and the cows to market. It's still that kind of county in many ways, which shows why the game against Leeds, still considered city slickers hereabouts, so gripped the imagination.

Moreover, it was an FA Cup tie, and it could be argued that Hereford have a more glorious Cup history than any other club, insofar as Hereford have no glorious history apart from the FA Cup. Simon is just about the only lifelong Bulls fan I know over the age of 40 who admits he wasn't there on the unforgettable afternoon of 5 February 1972 when Hereford, then a Southern League club, beat First Division Newcastle United in an FA Cup third-round replay.

My new friend Farmer was, however. He was 11 years old, and was accompanied to the match by his nine-year-old sister on the strict parental condition that he was not to let her out of his sight. But as soon as Ronnie Radford equalised Malcolm Macdonald's 82nd-minute opener, Farmer joined the pitch invasion and promptly lost his sister. "I didn't see her again until Ricky George scored the winner in extra time," he told me. "Then there was another pitch invasion and that's where I found her, on the pitch."

It is unlikely that any feat of FA Cup giant-killing will ever come close to matching that one, either at Edgar Street or anywhere else, especially in this skewed football world in which Premier League Manchester City beating Premier League Manchester United counts as giant-killing. All the same, if Leeds had been beaten it would have been another famous Edgar Street victory, and they nearly were: in an entertaining 0-0 draw Hereford were much the better side, which bodes well for Tuesday's replay ("the first time we've ever played at Elland Road," Simon tells me).

The match was my first sight of Hereford this season, and the first time I had seen 19-year-old Lionel Ainsworth, who signed in the summer after being released by Derby County. I fancy young Ainsworth might yet make an impact in the higher echelons, and my talent-spotting record isn't bad. In 1983, I went to Vancouver to visit my Canadian friend Bruce, who took me to watch Vancouver Whitecaps against San Jose Earthquakes in the North American Soccer League. A Whitecaps player let go by Manchester United the season before impressed me so much that I wrote to the Everton manager, Howard Kendall, recommending him. At the time I was a 21-year-old university student; even if my letter did reach Kendall it probably reached his bin seconds later. But eight years later the player did join Everton, from Liverpool, for a bargainous £1m.

Lionel Ainsworth probably won't have the career that Peter Beardsley did, but if he does, you read it here first. In the meantime, c'mon you Bulls...

Who I Like This Week...

Andy Fordham, the 2004 British Darts Organisation world champion whose various health scares provided the motivation for a remarkable weight-loss campaign. Nobody ever embodied the old Not The Nine o'Clock News Fatbelly Gutbucket sketch more than Fordham, who topped the scales – if he hadn't already broken them – at 30st. He has since shed about eight chins, and looks positively handsome. I salute him now for inspiring what will be surely be the most improbable best-seller of 2008, if he gets round to writing it: The Oche Diet Book.

And Who I Don't

Michael Owen, who's a nice young man and probably shouldn't be castigated for sticking up for poor old Steve McClaren, as he did on Wednesday, effectively calling on the FA to retain the England coach even should the 2008 campaign all go avocado pear-shaped in Israel today, with Russia putting qualification out of England's reach. But I can't help thinking that Owen should have kept his mouth shut. If England, with all their supposed world-class players, fail to qualify from a conspicuously easy group then of course McClaren must go.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

MBDA UK Ltd: PCB Technologies Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor