Such sad news coming from Devon this week with the passing of the former Hereford United midfielder David Rudge. I had the pleasure of meeting the ex Aston Villa player at several Hereford reunions and fund raising matches down the years and also working alongside him on BBC Hereford & Worcester when the Bulls met Torquay United. He was always very approachable and “Rudgie” was a favourite of mine from the 1972/73 season.
A boyhood hero for many Hereford fans in the early 1970’s, David was a gifted inside right/winger who lit up many games for the Bulls during a successful three-year stint at Edgar Street that saw the Bulls elevated to the Third Division of the Football League.
The Wolverhampton born player came to prominence as a schoolboy and was snapped up by Aston Villa as an apprentice, before signing a professional contract in May 1965. His talent was soon recognised on the national stage when he was selected for the England Youth team. “Rudgie” went on to make 55 appearances for the Villa, scoring 10 goals after making his debut during the 1966/67 season. Always a popular player he won the Supporters’ Trophy in 1969, but suffered a broken leg that season – a misfortune he was to suffer once again two years later.
Despite an injury ravaged period it came as a shock to some of the Villa’s Holte End fans when Rudge signed for Hereford for a then club-record fee of £6,000 from Aston Villa soon after the Bulls initial election to the Football League. “Rudgie” joined at the same time as Harry Gregory and the pair had already built up a good understanding.
He made his debut for Hereford on 26 August 1972 away at Bradford City In a 1-1 draw, and his hard-working style of play combined with energy and no-little skill down the flanks soon helped the Bulls climb the Fourth Division table after a poor start.
David scored his first League goal for Hereford in a vital 1-0 home victory over fellow promotion contenders Aldershot on 25 November 1972. Another goal followed, directly from a corner, on a bitterly cold evening fixture at Stockport County to grab a point. His opening goal against Chester in January 1973 led the way, before Eric Redrobe scored twice and Hereford were then right in the promotion mix alongside Southport.
Unfortunately, a leg injury meant he missed the last eight games of the season and he had to sit out the nail-biting matches against Crewe Alexandra and Newport County, just like the 12,000 plus crowds!
United were promoted as runners-up to Southport, and “Rudgie” continued to perform at the higher level. During the 1973/74 season he made another 27 appearances, scoring three goals including an 87th minute winner against Blackburn Rovers. That year he played at Upton Park against West Ham United in a 3rd Round FA Cup tie. The Bulls drew 1-1 and, in the replay at Edgar Street, David became a Hereford “Giantkiller” as the First Division side were knocked out 2-1 in front of a crowd of 17,423. Clyde Best gave the Hammers the lead with a superb header but the Bulls levelled as Brian Evans was tripped and Tommy Naylor calmly slotted home the penalty. Alan Jones moved up for a corner, Tyler miscues and Jones strikes with a fierce right-foot drive.
Rudge was an excellent crosser of the ball and his corner kicks were extremely accurate with either foot, and he was well-known for his tenacity, work-rate and attitude on the pitch. He was always prepared to give 100% even in difficult situations, but for many he did not receive the plaudits others from his era achieved. His finest goal came at Spotland against Rochdale with one of the best volleys I’ve ever seen. Dudley Tyler had crossed a ball over to Rudge just outside the box, and in an split-second he somehow managed to volley it into the opposite corner of the net, but at a very low trajectory – quite stunning!
In total David made 100 appearances for the Bulls, the last of which was away at Shrewsbury Town on 27th December 1975 as a substitute. He later transferred to Torquay United where he continued his playing career making 64 league appearances for the Gulls, before joining non-league Barnstaple Town.
At the end of his career, he also assisted local clubs Kingsbury FC and Newton Abbot FC. After retirement, David settled in South Devon and worked for Pro-Direct for many years. Sadly, he died in August 2022 after a short illness, aged 74.