the real fa cup

Hereford United

Ellistown & Ibstock United v Hereford United
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round 2014/15

Usually this website is all about the underdog, the lower ranked side, the least known or unheralded team (or, admittedly, often Dulwich Hamlet). However, this particular round is slightly different, although only because this is personal.

Hereford United: a professional football league club for 32 seasons, FA Cup entrants since at least 1930 and the first team I remember seeing in the flesh in the FA Cup. It saddens me that they are entering at the 1st Qualifying Round stage for the first time since 1950 when a 1-0 win over Kidderminster Harriers sent them on their way to the 2nd Round proper, where they lost to Newport County.

Hereford are unusual for clubs at this stage of the tournament because they have got to the 4th Round on numerous occasions (8 in fact), indeed most recently just 4 years ago, when they lost to Sheffield Wednesday. Three years prior to that they lost in the 4th Round to eventual finalists Cardiff  City.

Despite historically being a non league or lower league club, the Bulls have been regulars in the FA Cup 3rd Round and have given many big teams a game over the years. In 1957/58 they got to the 3rd Round after humping QPR 6-1. Even though QPR were only a Division 3 South club at the time, they were still a decent mid-table side and the Bulls were playing in the Southern League.

Of course, Hereford United are probably the most famous giant-killers of the last 40 years – but we do not mention ‘that’ game or ‘that’ goal on here, it sends us into spasm. And, because of that one goal, people forget that Hereford only just lost in Round 4 to West Ham United, also taking them to a replay.

That ‘that’ goal is trawled out so often is a shame. OK, it resonates because Hereford were a non league side but they were only 3 months away from being a league side. Maybe that is why the following season misses out somewhat, despite the fact they also got to Round 4 and to get there beat, you’ve guessed it, West Ham United.

The Bulls also had some memorable FA Cup games in the 1980s and here’s where I come in. Hereford United 0-1 Leicester City. My first actual FA Cup game was, almost certainly a few months earlier when, living nearby, my dad reckons he took me to Edgar Street to watch Hereford dispatch his Southend United side. But I don’t remember that like I remember Leicester City in the 4th Round. Gary Lineker, Steve Lynex, moustachioed Mark Wallington and, the bear-like man-mountain match-winer Larry May. Actually I don’t remember Gary Lineker either, it was all about Lynex.

Struggling Hereford had already disposed of Fulham and Scunthorpe as well as Southend before taking on newly relegated Leicester who were chasing down the 3rd and final promotion place in Division 2 (that’s the Championship now, youngsters).

My football experience at the time had been limited to some low key Southend United and Wrexham games but this one had a crowd, 10,000 worth of crowd. I don’t really remember much about the game to be honest, I was 9, but I do remember the noise, a relentles electric rattle and hum created (I realised later) by a football crowd’s sonic force chipping away the rust of crumbling corrugate. I remember the parade of the Bull, I remember that Larry May seemed to be even bigger than that huge bit of beef and I remember Steve Lynex seemed to be the best footballer I had ever seen.

Kids, eh?

On the very same day 3rd Division Oxford won away at the Goldstone Groun (0-3) and Newcastle were up to their old tricks again, losing at home to Grimsby. Leicester went on to reach the semi finals but missed out on promotion back to the top flight, though they did succeed the following year.

It’s all quite odd, therefore, that Hereford United now find themselves in the Southern League, back where they were when they played ‘that’ game and ‘he’ scored ‘that’ goal 42 years ago. They go into this game with their ground, the historical source of their many financial problems, reduced to a capacity of just 1,000, thanks to the level of disrepair, well below the capability of even the most lowly of teams in the competition.

This week Hereford had yet another Court date, with HMRC owed £116,000 it may only be a matter of time before Hereford cease to exist. Monday’s hearing was adjourned for what appears to be a seventh time, a stay of execution brought about partially by Chairman Andy Lonsdale paying up Martin Foyle and Andy Porter, who were co-petitioners in the winding-up order.

But, being in the relegation zone in the Southern League, having a rotting ground insufficiently large to house their average crowd number and with the Damaclean financial sword hanging over their head, things don’t look great for the Bulls. It’s not an uncommon scenario but this is one I feel more than others, it’s closer to home.

Despite their very well documented fall from grace, Hereford are still significantly higher up the pyramid than Saturday’s opponents, from a village in Leicestershire, who will, no doubt, smell the blood of this sadly rotting club.

Ellistown & Ibstock United have never lost an FA Cup game. OK, OK, their record is currently P2 W2 L0 and this is their first foray into the FA Cup in their current guise. However, neither of the two clubs (Ibstock United and Ellistown) from which they emerged had any cup pedigree either, managing only one season in the cup (2009) between them.

Here I must apologise to the good people of Ellistown and indeed Ibstock. USUALLY, I would be rooting for you to overcome the odds and, in truth, if you do it I will applaud. However, part of the reason this site came to exist and the sole reason why I’m even writing some preamble about this game is because your opponents made an early impression.

So, apologies for overlooking your big day, feel free to redress that balance with a match report!

Historical data courtesy of @PhilAnnets

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