Former-Press Association reporter Ken Gaunt tells us about the remarkable support enjoyed by Hereford FC, the club emerging from the liquidation of Hereford United...
Six years ago Hereford United were not only entertaining Leeds United but beating them as well. Today it is the likes of Lye Town, no disrespect, who provide the opposition for those who proudly carry the Bulls banner.
Forever remembered in FA Cup folklore for despatching Newcastle in 1972 thanks to thrilling goals from Ronnie Radford and Ricky George their decline has been sharp and spectacular.
Hereford were relegated from the Football League in 2012, expelled from the Football Conference in 2014 for failing to pay their bills and finally last December the club was wound up in the High Court.
That 2-0 victory against Leeds at Edgar Street - their home since 1924 - in League One was a distant memory, a reminder of how good things used to be.
However something remarkable is happening deep down in the eighth tier of English football. Phoenix club Hereford FC are not only surviving but thriving thanks to an outpouring of love and money from the community.
Banished by the FA to the Midland Football League this season officials wondered how strong their fan base would be, estimating gates of 600-800 at Edgar Street.
Instead to their astonishment they are averaging crowds of around 2,600 after selling a staggering 1,450 season tickets.
Hereford director Mike Langford, who doubles up as treasurer of the Hereford United Supporters Trust (HUST) - he is charge of the 50-50 draw - said: “It is amazing. Obviously we are very pleased with the backing we continue to receive”.
Match day tickets are priced at £8 and the fans are getting value for money as the team under manager Peter Beadle have won 18 games on the spin in all competitions.
It is a far cry to the last days of Hereford United in the Southern League. Crowds dipped to between 300-400 as some fans boycotted their games in protest at the owner.
The situation went from bad to worse with their record expunged in January this year after being wound up in the High Court the previous month.
But the supporters fought back, Hereford FC was formed and the council granted a five-year-lease on Edgar Street. The club hope that will eventually be extended to 25 years.
However, according to Langford, the stadium was in such a state of disrepair it cost £200,000 to bring it up to standard.
Four anonymous businessmen pledged £50,000 each to the club and another is waiting to join the list. HUST have also weighed in with a similar sum while £39,000 has been generated from a share issue open to fans.
Hereford were laughing all the way to the bank as popular comedian Omid Djalili donated the proceeds of two shows, said to worth around £20,000 to go towards paying an outstanding tax bill. Why? Apparently one of his team live in nearby Ledbury.
Langford said: “No-one wanted our beloved Hereford United to die but by the time the supporters were put in the picture it was terminal unless a white knight with pots of money came along.
“We managed to survive the season, remain in the Conference and got a gentleman from the east end of London who bought it for £2.
“The upshot was we were relegated two steps into the Southern League Premier until we were liquidated in December.”
Langford added: “Most of the players coming to play at Edgar Street have not played in front of more than 100 supporters. So crowds of 2,000 to 4,000 in a stadium is a good experience for them, win or lose.”
No wonder the Bulls of Hereford are feeling bullish again...
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