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

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links