With Hereford due to face Portsmouth in the FA Cup in a couple of weeks it seems an appropriate time to re-visit the career of several players who have pulled on both a Bulls and Pompey shirt.
First up is one from the ‘golden era’ of Hereford United in the seventies, striker Steve Davey.
Davey is one of my favourite Hereford players of all time. He was an unselfish centre-forward who was happy to play in the shadows of his more famous strike partner, Dixie McNeil.
The Plymouth born forward had pace, a delightful touch and great vision. Indeed, despite not being one of the tallest players around he appeared to have the ability to ‘hang in the air’ and therefore scored some memorable headers too.
Born in Devon on 5 September 1948 he was signed by his hometown club as an apprentice in July 1966 after leaving school. His talent was quickly noticed, gaining youth international honours for England in the Youth World Cup a year later, after having already made his first-team debut against Blackburn Rovers in November 1966. He topped the scoring charts at Home Park in 1974, scoring seven goals in a League Cup run that saw the Devon side reach the semi-finals. During his time with Plymouth he often partnered Paul Mariner, Billy Rafferty, or the 6’3” forward Jim Hinch, who later joined the Bulls.
In seven seasons with Argyle he made 249 appearances, scoring 55 goals despite being used as an attacking full-back for two years. Under Tony Waiters at Home Park he was thrust up-front where he developed the technique of featuring as a supportive striker, with a brilliant opening burst of pace. He often brushed aside opponents with his speed off-the-mark.
In June 1975 the Hereford boss, John Sillett (a former Plymouth player) signed Davey for a £9,000 transfer fee. Steve went on to star in the Bulls’ 3rd Division Championship side, missing just one league game as Hereford lifted the title. He was the clubs second-highest scorer behind McNeil, forging a lethal partnership – the best in the Football League that year.
Steve made his league debut for the Bulls on 16 August 1975 in a goalless draw at Port Vale, but Hereford fans did not have to wait long for Davey to hit the scoring trail. His first goal arrived against Gillingham at Edgar Street in a 1-1 draw. He went on to score in the next two games, with victories against Chester and Wrexham.
Davey worked tirelessly up-front, and was often found down the channels by Terry Paine, frequently setting up McNeil to add the finishing touch. But it is interesting to note Davey bagged 18 league goals in the title-winning side.
The striker then made 21 appearances for United in the Second Division, and was again Hereford’s second-top scorer with 9 goals. Indeed, the McNeil/Davey partnership hit the back of the net 25 times that year – but was not enough to retain their higher-graded status. Davey scored a brace at Eastville, then the home of Bristol Rovers in a 3-2 win, and another in a 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers at Edgar Street. A personal highlight was scoring against his old club Plymouth in April 1977.
Relegation followed, and financial stresses saw McNeil sold to Wrexham for a paltry £60,000. Davey stayed with Hereford for another season but was eventually sold to Portsmouth for £10,000 in June 1978 as yet another ‘cost-cutting’ measure. Overall Davey scored 34 goals in 124 appearances for Hereford.
Steve went on to feature regularly for Pompey chalking up over 100 appearances and played a key part in their promotion from the Fourth Division in the 1979/80 season, before another move arose – this time to Exeter City, where he was to end his Football League career.
He moved into non-league, featuring for Bideford, Liskeard, Saltash and St Blazey before finally hanging up his boots, later coaching YTS trainees at Plymouth. He maintained contact with Hereford often recommending south-west based players for trials at Edgar Street.
Steve later owned a residential care home for the elderly in Plymouth and his time was taken up managing this alongside regular guest slots on BBC Radio Devon, summarising on Argyle matches at Home Park.
I last met him in this role when Hereford faced Plymouth in the league and he was as sharp off the field as he had been on it.
Has there ever been a better Hereford striking duo than McNeil and Davey? I very much doubt it.