It’s the 13th of May, 1990. Killer by Adamski tops the UK singles chart. Ghost, a movie starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg is the highest-grossing film at the box office. Nelson Mandela is getting used to freedom having walked from a prison cell on Robben Island that had neither a bed, nor plumbing. And Hereford supporters are amassing at the National Stadium in Cardiff for the Allbright Bitter Welsh Cup Final.
For over 50 years Hereford had set out on a mission to cross Offa’s Dyke and seize the Welsh FA Cup, reaching the final in 1968, 1976 and 1981, but despite valiant endeavours, these cross-border raids had been doomed to failure. But not this time.
Ian Bowyers’ young and enthusiastic side were up against Wrexham. A convincing display of ‘pass and move’ saw the Bulls start brightly and it was no surprise when Hereford took a 34th minute lead. Gary Bowyer took a free-kick on the edge of the area. His inch-perfect cross was knocked down by the towering Darren Peacock for Colin Robinson to crack the ball home, but Wrexham levelled in the 55th minute through Gary Worthington. Wrexham repulsed Hereford. Only six minutes left. Would the Bulls be denied once more in a final?
Fear not. Up stepped the Hereford hero – Ian Benbow. Substitute Paul Tester caused havoc down the flank before crossing. Russell Bradley headed down and there was Benbow with a right foot shot into the far corner of the net. Cue bedlam and hysteria.
“The celebrations were amazing” recalls Benbow. “It was the best time of my life. I was absolutely shattered, but when I got home everyone I knew seemed to be celebrating our win down the pub. The victory provided real community spirit.”
Born in Hereford on 9, January 1969, Ian was offered trials with Hereford after coming through schoolboy football in Leominster. As a local player he perhaps faced a tougher breakthrough period as a result. However, he remained determined and at the age of 18 made his first team debut in the Football League as a substitute at Carlisle on 31, August 1987. John Newman then handed the midfielder a starting place in the side for his home debut five days later against Bolton Wanderers.
Benbow continued to progress and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 away win over Stockport County on 23, October 1987. John Newman had just handed the managerial reins over to player-manager Ian Bowyer. Recalling his time at Hereford, Benbow described the ex-Nottingham Forest player as “a challenging man. He was unpredictable as you didn’t really know what was coming next, but I managed to develop a good relationship with him. He was honest and a good motivator”.
The midfielder became a regular in the side during the 1988/89 season, providing a number of goal scoring opportunities for top-scorer Phil Stant. However, the following campaign was his personal highlight as the Bulls reached the 4th Round of the FA Cup and an epic Edgar Street tie against Manchester United, in addition to the Welsh Cup final success.
After making 112 first team appearances for Hereford, and scoring 7 goals, Benbow left Edgar Street and linked up with Telford in the Conference at the start of the 1990/91 campaign. Notably, he scored twice for the Bucks as they beat Stoke City in an FA Cup 1st round replay on 26, November 1991.
Thankfully Ian came through a life-threatening incident in 2014, after being diagnosed with a heart problem similar to that faced by Fabrice Muamba.
“I was diagnosed with a hereditary problem and had a defibrillator implanted in my chest. Eight months later I collapsed at work and ‘died’. Seconds later my defibrillator kicked in and brought me back.
“I had no idea I had been walking a tightrope training and playing professional football for all those years. It was a life-changing event as I now appreciate what I have. I don’t worry about much, and I enjoy every minute.”