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

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

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

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:SECONDARY teachers need...

Behaviour Support Work

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Behaviour Support WorkerThe JobTo...

English Teacher, Aylesford School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker