Most Hereford FC supporters are anticipating major player re-building to take place at Edgar Street during the summer ahead of the club’s second campaign in the National League North.
But it might not be as easy as some fans think in attracting players, as Simon Wright outlines.
We’ve delved into our more recent archives for a Talking Bull article which is even more relevant to Hereford FC in 2019, than perhaps it was three years ago.
Geography – Hereford FC’s toughest opponent
Both Joe Tumelty and Aaron Birch left Edgar Street, citing travel fatigue. No doubt, geography is only part of their concerns, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. My back of the fag packet in-depth analysis has Joe driving around 1,500 miles a month and Aaron perhaps 2,000 miles, of which he would drive three-quarters himself. These are serious miles for what is a second job, a passion or hobby. I have particular empathy with Aaron as my journey to Hereford FC is very similar to his. Yes, our footballers are well compensated, but money doesn’t ease fatigue or give them back time. The travel is hard-going for all our player commuters but most of them can buddy up such as the Golden Boys from Oxford and the “Ain’t Getting past us Boyos” from South Wales.
We know footballing talent in the Shire is thin and our club will always need to import players. Having to reimburse them is a drain on our finances. Fair travelling recompense just for Aaron alone would be in the £400- £600 bracket per month. Commuting also limits the size of our squad. Few regular travellers will be content to train and then sit on the subs bench. And conversely, even if they were content as a near-permanent reserve, supporters might question the individual’s ambition.
Edgar Street’s geographical isolation impacts on club support. For local residents of course, it’s the best game in town and travelling anywhere else for the not-quite-so-beautiful game costs time and money. But for supporters from the remote hamlets and villages across the Shire and those who are full blown exiles, travelling to and from Edgar Street isn’t straightforward, particularly for non-drivers. This against a background of arguably worsening transport links with pressure on rural buses and shrinking of already over-priced car parking. Us Step 4 supporters are effectively paying the same as many Premier League followers for convenient daytime parking.
Midweek home games seriously stuff our exiled fan base. With Grimsby back in the Football League, there’s a realistic argument that Hereford has more exiled fans than almost any other Non-League side. From my Black Country base, it’s just about do-able. Tedious, a little anxiety and fatigue-inducing but do-able. For others further afield, they simply can’t travel. Even closer to home, folk on the edge of the city struggle to get home by public transport. Was it ever thus. I remember my teenage days in the Seventies, walking home to Redhill after evening fixtures. Extra time was most unwelcome! I had no other way of getting home. Understandably, many parents would not permit that nowadays.
So are there any solutions?
For the players, all the obvious alleviation measures are already in place. Training is often remote from Edgar Street in Gloucestershire which enjoys better road links. Our new recruits largely live in South Wales or Gloucestershire. Hereford FC run a comfortable executive coach to away games while Roger washes all the kit. Many other Step 4 sides don’t have these comfort advantages.
Supporters often remark that their city needs a motorway link. There’s a whole bucketful of worms of environmental and wider desirability issues, largely made anaemic by cost pressures. Likewise, any special car parking rates for football supporters. The elephant in the room is the never-ending and never resolved saga of a second River Wye crossing. What chance of a motorway against that inertia?
As ever, whatever improvements can be made will have to come from within to build on what we’re collectively already doing. We are Hereford FC after all. Car sharing is part of the Hereford FC 2016/17 Facebook activity. And.. one day if our momentum continues, coaches or minibuses with pick-up routes may be feasible at least for those problematical midweek fixtures. One day.