Friday night. Hereford. The FA Cup. Edgar Street. Higher graded opponents. Full away allocation of fans. Live BBC TV cameras.
What’s not to like? Simon Wright is “Up for the Cup”. Are You?
If you drive into the city of Portsmouth, you’ll see printed underneath the Welcome to Portsmouth sign “home of the 2008 FA Cup winners.”
I have mixed feelings about that sign, not least because they beat the club that I used to follow in the semi-final but at the same time what an advert for civic pride.
For me, I’d love to see ‘Welcome to Herefordshire. Home of the Giantkillers.” That’s guaranteed to resonate with more people than the bizarre “You Can” phrase.
Hereford are the Giantkillers. The one and only. We are far more than just one amazing February afternoon just over 50 years ago. Edgar Street clubs have pedigree. Over the years we’ve had Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Palace, Newcastle, West Ham, Southampton, Leeds, and Fulham all visiting the Street, some of them more than once and none of them won.
Not all were Cup matches admittedly but even so there were some embarrassed big-time charlies among them. Recently Hereford FC have rather specialised in beating clubs in divisions above us as Bromley now realise to their cost. But a three-division gap is a bigger ask.
Let me share a few pointers about our opposition:
Pompey’s last accounts (2021) show a total wage bill of £8 million, which covered 45 players, 72 office and football staff and 200 matchday staff. Covid cost the club £6 million but their extensive assets mean the club remains comfortably in the black. Pompey are owned by the Tornante Company who bought the club from the Supporters Trust a few years back. Incidentally, Portsmouth remains transparent about their finances, carrying a link from their website to their accounts. They also include comment and clarification on the annual accounts from the Pompey Supporters Trust. A few clubs might learn from that.
It’s not often we face EFL opposition whose managers now more about non-league than many non-League Gaffers. The Cowley brothers both played semi-pro before having success at Concord Rangers, Braintree and of course Lincoln City. Under the Cowleys, the Red Imps got to the FA Cup Quarter Final, the FA Trophy Semi Final and won the championship, all in one season. They’ve been successful everywhere and joined Pompey in March 2021. This season, they are fifth, having lost only two away League matches. The pair of them are very shrewd cookies and they have a record to maintain. Only once have Portsmouth FC ever lost to a non-league side in their history (Aldershot 2014-15) and they’ve never lost to a part-time club.
There is a Hereford connection with their first-choice keeper Josh Griffiths being born in the city. As a youngster, he played for both Peggy and Hereford United and there are unconfirmed stories that the WBA Gloucester centre saw him playing for the Hereford Academy side and just took him. Josh is now 21 and has played for both England U18 and U21. He is on loan from West Brom where he is third choice keeper and contracted until summer 2025 though he’s never played for them.
Another recognisable name is No 9 Colby Bishop, first choice striker who will be on Pompey’s books until at least 2025. He made his name with Leamington during the period 2017-19.
The senior Hereford club have played Pompey more often than you might think. There was a time when we used to share a league. There was even a period between 1979 and 83 when the lament went up “not Portsmouth again…”. With 6 meetings in just 4 seasons. Pompey last visited us the League cup in August 1983 and Hereford beat them.
A token odd fact about Portsmouth which demonstrated local passions. They enjoyed the very last Saturday night pink paper, their answer to the Sports Argus. The Sports Mail ran right up to July 2022 and was able to keep going as Pompey were stuck in the lower Divisions and were not receiving much coverage through other sources.
And here’s another. The average Portsmouth supporter away following last season was just under 1,400. That’s utterly remarkable given the huge distances from the South Coast. Pompey away games are an event.
To a large degree, Hereford have already won regardless of the score. We’ve battled through three rounds and we’re now enjoying the rewards in a free-hit fixture. With a backdrop of recession, Governmental uncertainty and only one Saturday home league game before Christmas, the hefty boost to our bank balance is absolutely vital. I wonder if there is any video footage of our finance director Peter watching, and then celebrating the FA Cup draw?
Just go and enjoy the occasion.
General sale details for the last remaining tickets are as follows:
Portsmouth Tickets: Last Chance to Buy | Talking Bull