It’s time to introduce Cartoon Corner by Mike Baldwin, to the Talking Bull website, as we look back to the dark days of just over 4 years ago, and the demise of Hereford United (1939) Limited.
This particular cartoon highlights Andrew Lonsdale answering his mobile phone as his barrister asks about his whereabouts and the evidence of a million-pound investment. Some of you may recall Cushti Fish & Chips from a list of Lonsdale enterprises at the time.
One of the London Bulls, Justin Griffiths-Williams was in court that fateful day, and here are his thoughts penned immediately after the proceedings.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare
Sunday morning: How am I feeling? Actually, quite good. Excited even. Optimistic. There’s still a little residual sadness, but I have trouble justifying it. How can I feel sad for the loss of something I didn’t really believe in? How can I feel sad that after months of hard work and commitment, our fans have managed to wrestle control of the football club we love, from the hands of criminals, fraudsters and charlatans.
But the name? Surely the name… Hereford United 1939; Well without wishing to be too reductive, for me that is all we’ve lost; a trading name, a historical curiosity on Wikipedia. If you believe, as I do, that the heart and soul of a club resides with its fans, then the corollary of this is that the club can’t be killed in Companies House. We are the club. Our history belongs to us, our achievements are not just written on trophies, but in the hearts of each and every one of us. If you believe that, then everything else becomes peripheral. Yes, even the name.
It’s been quite an eventful few days. I had driven down to Hereford from my home in London, to attend the HUST meeting on Thursday night. I wanted to hear what Andrew Lonsdale would say to those fans who had so admirably held him to account. In retrospect I’m glad he didn’t attend. What could he have possibly said? What assurances could he have given us to justify the lies, debts, and dishonesty that had brought the club to such depths?
Thankfully the meeting was a huge success without him. The room was packed, and the absence of Lonsdale gave a space to trust members to air their concerns freely, question the board, and discuss the future of our club constructively. A catharsis of some sort. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left the meeting on a high, imbued with renewed enthusiasm.
And so to the High Court for the fourth time. Would Mr Lonsdale come up with a million pounds of his own money, or would he continue to play the system like a fiddle? The smart money was on another adjournment, followed by a nervous Christmas, and a return to court in the new year.
I sat in the gallery with Mitch Stansbury. We’d travelled up and down the country together since we kids; united through cup runs, promotions, and all too many relegation struggles. If I was going to witness the demise of our club, it might as well be with him.
So where was the money asked the judge.
“The transfer has been made but I have not seen evidence of it. Andrew Lonsdale is stuck in traffic”.
Incredulity passed across the judge’s face as he asked the barrister if he had actually seen the document.
“I understand the transfer has been made” replied Lonsdale’s barrister sheepishly.
“Where is he stuck in traffic?” enquired an increasingly exasperated judge. The barrister was unable to respond.
“He’s out of time, there is no evidence before me”
Suddenly, almost anticlimactically, the case was over.
Was is really that simple? We looked around for confirmation, shell-shocked. A few tentative hugs. And then finally outside into the London night to face the local media. How to make sense of something we barely believed ourselves?
A denouement of sorts? Maybe. But it’s also a new beginning. Hereford United was not liquidated because of the fans. We didn’t kill the club. We were wound up because the people who bought the club, for a nominal fee of two pounds, reneged on every promise, every commitment, and every opportunity to run the club with an honesty and integrity that the fans demanded. There really are more important things in life than football, and our fans were prepared to go without it, in order to prove the point. I couldn’t be more proud.
We now have a wonderful opportunity in front of us. After the disappointments of the Keyte era, and the nightmare we’ve just endured, we finally have a chance to shape our own destiny. If the recent times have taught us anything, it is that we are lucky enough to have a fan base that is committed, resourceful, and hugely talented. The expertise that we can utilise in rebuilding the club is astounding. As Martin Watson said at the trust meeting, “who knew we had so many experts on bond trading in Herefordshire”.
I also understand that not everyone is going to feel the way I do. Some fans are going to need the time and space to come around to embracing the new club. That is understandable. But I hope they at least remain open-minded. Any amount of rationalising on my part will hopefully dwindle into insignificance compared to a packed Edgar Street on a balmy afternoon in August. Do we really want to give Agombar and Lonsdale the power to take those days away from us?
I’ve met some wonderful people over the last few months. And though I’ve been a supporter for decades, I’ve never felt so close to my fellow fans. From the lovely lady I met at the St Neots protest, who proudly proclaimed that she had recently been fitted with a bovine heart valve, so was “more of a bull” than me, to Mr. John Hancock with his ubiquitous “I Want My Club Back” banner, who attended his first game with his father in 1948, to Stephen Niblett, who selflessly auctioned his own club memorabilia to subsidise unpaid wages.
The hardships of the last year has made me realise just how important this football club is to our city. Let’s all get together and make this club the very best of what it can be; an asset to our wonderful city, a home from home for generations of Bulls fans to come. A club in which we can all be proud, a club in which we will all have a stake, a club in which we can all BULLieve.
Lastly, a word to a man I’d rather not see back at Edgar Street. Three weeks ago Mr Lonsdale issued a ban to a loyal supporter outside the High Court, for having the temerity to care about the long-term well-being of his football club. I told him, “I’ll be here when you are long gone, Mr Lonsdale”. And indeed I am.
Talking Bull Cartoon by Mike Baldwin
Watch out for more Talking Bull cartoons from our fanzine archive in the future here at www.talkingbull.org