Hereford, under new manager Russell Slade, will next feature against Guiseley on Saturday 14 September. The two week gap between matches due to international call up’s for Rowan Liburd, Raheem Hanley and Reece Styche. This period may have given the new boss a chance of getting to grips with the squad, and implement some of the changes he is contemplating.
However, Guiseley are expected to be tough opponents and are handily placed in the play-off positions. Simon Wright takes a look at the Lions.
Staff turnover at the Lions is heavy. 24 players plus a manager left in 2018. Another 15 crashed out this summer, leaving just 6 deemed worthy of another contract. Thus lots of more new arrivals at Nethermoor this year, too many to cover here. Co-manager Marcus Bignot points out “we cannot compete on finances or resources with the likes of Hereford, Southport and York.” However, every year Guiseley amass a big squad, bigger than ours. They are currently picking from 24 players, including 3 goalkeepers and six strikers. One can only presume the squad are on modest wages. One of the three club owners is admittedly exceedingly wealthy owing 74 breeding horses. There is no public confirmation that Steve Parkin is throwing “gud brass inta club” but Guiseley are now claiming to be free of debt and that can’t be down to turnstile income.
One slightly better-known signing is Algerian central defender Hamza Bencherif. He’s 31 and 6 foot 3 tall. Predictably, he’s been around the circuit a bit. He played 80 times for York City, his previous club. He’s the man dishing out the orders to the players around him. Has the curious habit of brushing his teeth before every game. His defensive partner Dylan Barkers is just aged 19 yet is very much the defensive man of the moment for the Lions. By day, he’s a sports science degree student.
Guiseley astutely mugged Brighouse Town who won their Step 4 play-off Final but were denied promotion because their points ratio was too low. The Lions grabbed their goal scorers Aaron Martin and Gabriel Johnson who scored 35 last season between them. Johnson hasn’t got off the mark, but Aaron Martin certainly has by scoring 10 goals in August which makes him the top marksman in England. Guiseley have struck gold with Martin, and he’s the main reason behind their high League position. Scaffolder Martin is 27 so probably too old for avaricious Football League clubs however Step One clubs are likely to be sniffing if his form continues. As we know, regular Step Two scorers generally don’t stay at that level for too long. According to former Goolie Martin the first words his new manager said to him “you’d better score some flipping goals.” Only he didn’t use the word “flipping.”
Very early days of course but already the Lions are in the same bracket as Blyth and Bradford with Brackets were last season. Lovely to be competing at the top end but hard to see anything other than a speedy relegation if they somehow get promoted. They struggled desperately in their two seasons in Step One. And if they don’t go up, their finances end up over stretched and they’re struggling again.
Guiseley FC have joint managers. Russ O’Neill was No 2 at Alfreton for a decade and probably had to leave to ease his neck muscles. His partner is Bluenose loving Marcus Bignot. Marcus had 20 years as a pro, mainly in the Football League before turning to management. Best known for getting Solihull Moors into the top-flight and for doing wonderful things with Birmingham City Ladies. His day job is running a football Academy at Solihull College.
Bignot does have a link to our new Gaffer. Slade replaced Bignot as Grimsby manager just 3 years ago. Nether Bignot or Slade were in charge very long.
Home results so far are an impressive opening day 3-0 victory over Kings Lynn, an almost as impressive 3-1 defeat of Spennymoor, a slightly surprising 4-2 defeat to Heath’s Hoofballers aka Alfreton, followed by a 1-0 win over Curzon and a 0-0 draw with York. 10 points out of 15 is rather impressive, especially securing 4 points from the top two clubs in the League.
As a reminder, Guiseley is an attractive suburb of Leeds with a population of 22,000. It’s well known as the home of the original Harry Ramsdens restaurant (see below) and the birthplace of Harry Corbett, the man behind Sooty and Sweep. Sadly for us, its best remembered for arguably costing us the talent of Keyon Reffell. In the later stages of a 1-1 draw in Yorkshire, the temperature dropped sharply causing the pitch to freeze and down went Keyon who was injured for the rest of the season. Perhaps a fully fit Reffell could have galvanised our performances in the closing months. We’ll never know. In the earlier match at Edgar Street, Josh Gowling scored late in the second half to give us a 1-0 win.
Guiseley’s ground is rather open. The 500 seats are located along one touchline, split between two small modern stands. Opposite is a small covered terrace, which again is located towards the Railway End. Both ends have open terracing. Expect to pay adults £13, concessions £9, Under18’s £5. The Lions are keen that travellers should pre-book their tickets but as the online system adds a fee on top, there is no incentive to do so. The Lions average 700 supporters (albeit their last home game only pulled in 645) in a 4,000-capacity ground. No news yet about segregation. If we are separated, then access to seats is by asking the stewards nicely.
There is no parking at the ground for us, but there is a free car park extremely close on Netherfield Road LS20 9PD. Access Nethermoor by the footbridge in the back corner. Otherwise street parking but dire warning about ardent patrolling street wardens.
The Clubhouse is situated within the ground and promise “lots of real ale”. The building is shared with the Cricket club. The nearest alternative for any early arrivals is a ten-minute walk from the ground along Otley Road (towards centre of Guiseley) is Coopers. This CAMRA pub has eight real ales on tap. These will include 3 house beers including Timmy Taylors as well as a real cider and 5 guest ales. There is a separate eating area upstairs. Coopers is handy for the station.
Last season, we highlighted that the local Morrisons store was the only one serving real ale in their bar. Sadly, its no more. The store has a Barista bar now which obviously serves decent coffee with some alcohol but no real ale. So don’t bother,
Head in the opposite direction along Otley Road to track down the Wetherby Whaler. This establishment used to be the original Harry Ramsdens. Tripadvisor rates the Whaler highly, believing they’ve maintained the quality of Ramsden but widened the menu to serve all tastes.
By Road: (LS20 8BT) 385 miles return (6th longest away trip). Leave M62 at J28 and take A653 towards Leeds. After passing the White Rose Shopping Centre, bear left where the road forks onto the ring road (A6110). Continue on the A6110 following signs for Bradford (A647). Follow ring road for 8 miles, until at roundabout, take first exit onto the A65 towards Skipton. Continue on A65 for four miles and Nethermoor Park is on the right.
By Train: Another one for the masochists. Over 4 hours travelling each way with changes at Manchester Picc and Leeds. Standard fare is over £90 from the Shire. Not for the first time, Southern Exiles have easier travel. Kings Cross to Leeds then a local train takes under 3 hours.
By Reg: The ever-gorgeous Starliner leaves Hereford at 8.00am, with a refreshment halt at a Toby Carvery. Seat prices are £30 adult, £15 under 16s. Compared to the train, that’s a bargain.