There’s only Three Ronaldo’s


Ronaldo was at Wembley on Sunday. No, not that preening Portuguese. But a ton of beef and a champion in his own right, and to give him his full name, Hawkesbury Ronaldo. The Hereford bull was paraded around the pitch at Wembley before the match between Hereford FC and Morpeth Town in the FA Vase final.

If you thought Leicester City’s winning the Premier League was the stuff of football dreams, a similar story was unfolding at the club in the town where I grew up and started watching football seriously.

Only seven years ago Hereford United even played in the same division as Leicester City. Go back even further and they were part of F.A. cup legend, when Ronnie Radford’s 30-yard rocket toppled first division Newcastle United in an Edgar Street replay and West Ham were grateful to escape from Hereford with a 0-0 draw.

But Hereford have had a history of financial difficulties in recent decades as they bounced from Conference into the Football League and then back down again. Matters came to a head when the club were taken over by a group of London businessmen who many thought had designs on the Edgar Street site as real estate rather than a viable football club. In June 2014 United were expelled from the Conference over unpaid debts , and in December 2014 were wound up at the High Court in London when director Andrew Lonsdale failed to produce a required £1million proof of funding – claiming he was stuck in traffic!

But the club has risen from the ashes of financial oblivion with a new name – Hereford FC- and a new identity. After all the turmoil a fresh start beckoned in the summer of 2015. The supporters club set about starting a new club and, with the backing of four local benefactors, they registered to play in the Midlands League, the ninth tier of the English game.

Their first season as phoenix club has been a remarkable tale of redemption and success. A squad had to be put together from scratch, but they won their league with 108 points and with the Herefordshire County Cup and Midland Football League Cup already in the display cabinet, the quadruple was on at Wembley.

Hereford were due to bring not only a one-ton bull but 20,000 supporters to the national stadium. From a low of around 100 spectators under the previous, despised owners, home attendances have risen to an average of nearly 3,000 this season. The attendance at the Vase semi-final against Salisbury in March was 4,683 – an increase of 300 on when Leicester were the 3-1 victors in League One back in 2009.

Which must beg the question, where have all those 20,000 fans come from. Many,no doubt, like me (who went en famille) part of the Hereford Diaspora.

The Southern League awaits next term, so they will be competing, not for the FA Vase, but the FA trophy, the final of which was played at the same venue later in the day.

Hereford FC (1) v Morpeth Town (4) – Wembley Stadium – Sunday 22nd May 2016
The match could not have started better for Hereford. Rob Purdie opened the scoring with a fine 25-yard strike after 78 seconds for the Midland League champions. It looked good for the team who went into the final on the back of a 22-match winning run. They could even have been three or four goals to the good, such was their dominance for the first half hour, but found Karl Dryden in the Morpeth goal a formidable barrier.

Enter Morpeth defender Chris Swailes to write another chapter in football’s fairytale season. At the age of 45, and two years after heart surgery, the defender became the oldest man to score at the new Wembley. Hereford’s goalkeeper misjudged a corner, and allowed the former Ipswich Town player to bundle the ball home in the 34th minute for an equaliser. Hereford heads fell, and when Luke Carr put Morpeth in front after only 42 seconds of the second period, from Sean Taylor’s cross, it was clearly game over.

The Midlanders ran out of steam and ideas. Taylor added a third in the 59th minute before substitute Shaun Bell scored a fourth in stoppage time to rub salt into the wound. Northern League Morpeth Town deservedly lifted the FA Vase for the first time in their history.

Perhaps Hereford should have tried to get their Ronaldo on to the pitch.

Mike Miles

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More than a feelin’


I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

As all of you music aficionados know, that is the opening verse from the UK number 22 smash hit from US rockers Boston. The music summed up my start to the day perfectly as I peered out of the window of Northern HQ. Drizzle had taken hold of the day, the same drizzle that had descended on Worksop last night and would hang around until we would pass Peterborough on the way home, when the sun would immediately come out.

Today was all about Boston. Not Red Sox wearing, Cheers Bar frequenting, Bullish MIT Boston but Stumpy, Flat, Obese Boston. South-East Lincolnshire’s finest with the highest obesity rate in England rather than the highest IQ rate in the US, Massachusetts. Who needs Michael Jordan when you can have Jason Lee anyway? Lee, one of the nicest men in football, and a good friend of this very website is currently doing a great job as manager of the Pilgrims of Boston United. Continue reading

Beef in brief


I always try to find a mildly amusing title for my blog posts that is in some way related to the place I am going. For reasons that will become apparent when you read on, I wanted to know what the advertising slogan for OXO was. So I typed it into Google and had to wipe my eyes when I saw the fourth answer (as I write this it has actually now risen to the most popular result thanks to my work):-

“Center Parcs & Anal Sex”

I assumed I had ventured down a road I should not be looking at, especially on my work laptop but it was on Mumsnet.com, a very well-known “clean” site. I have no idea how the monster of search throws up the answer (the magic of Google’s dark art) but I am assuming it wasn’t the marketing slogan Professor Liebig thought of back in 1859 when he made the extract of beef that was to make the goodness of meat affordable to the poor (his words not mine). With Center Parcs not established until 1968 in Europe I think we can deduce that there is no link between OXO or Center Parcs so we can move on and the link between the two shall forever be a mystery.

So, Worksop. Yes, indeed. When I told people I was going to Worksop, the stock (see what I did there? OXO, stock? I’ll get my coat) answer was “You’ve been to Worksop before, right? as if there was some dark secret about the town. Actually I had been to Worksop before, and I could in some ways understand the nature of the question.

Let me take you back to March 1992 when we were all a big younger, freer and singler. A few friends of mine had plan was to drive up to watch Leeds United v West Ham at Elland Road but being young and naive we thought it would be a good idea to have. House party, which soon became a street party. I can still remember dancing with some foxy blonde at 4am to Rick Astley, thinking that sleep was over rated. Of course we slept through the warm, and then woke up to carnage. This wasn’t a five-minute clean up job, and so our 9am departure turned into a 12pm. Three hours to drive 210 miles to Leeds? No problem. Continue reading

The Future of Non League Football – Time to rethink the FA Vase?


Wembley Stadium will host a number of massive games in May. The FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool will be played out in front of a capacity crowd early in the month before the attention turns to the nPower Championship sell out between West Ham United and Blackpool in the “World’s Richest Club Game” as well as the FA Trophy final. Just a few days after the end of the month the stadium will be full again as we say goodbye and good luck to Roy Hodgson’s England squad as they play Belgium before departing for the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.

But in the middle of all those mouth watering games Wembley will host a bizarre game that still defies reason as to why a stadium that costs literally hundreds of thousands of pounds just to unlock the doors would deem viable. The FA Carlsberg Vase Final (ironic name given you cannot drink beer and watch the game at the same time) typically gets crowds of less than 10,000 and apart from a “day out” for the clubs involved, it is a strange game to justify being played at such a huge stadium. This years final is all the more baffling as it involves two teams who have already played each other four times this season, play in the same league and are barely 30 miles apart in one of the furthest leagues away from Wembley Stadium.

On Sunday 13th May West Auckland Town will take on Dunston UTS not in front of the 140-odd who saw their last meeting this season but a figure of close to 5,000 (10,000 at a push). They met early in the season in the FA Cup twice as well as in the league with the scores on the door at one win each and two draws.

Is there any real need to expect the fans to make the 600 mile round trip for this game? Couldn’t some sensibility be used here? Surely if the FA deemed the final should be at Wembley then play it on the Saturday as part of a double header with York City and Newport County, who will be competing for the FA Trophy in front of around 25,000. Alternatively, why not play the game at St James’ Park or the Stadium of Light which would undoubtably provoke more local interest and a significantly bigger crowd.  During the “Inbetween” years of 2000 and 2006 the final was played around the country at Villa Park, White Hart Lane, St Andrews and Upton Park. Continue reading