As a responsible supporter, I feel obligated to avoid knee-jerk reactions. Thus, I consciously decided not to scribe any thoughts on the night. That and because HM Government had every right to expect a coherent bright-eyed contribution from me at some point. Responsible, and mature (Tango described me as “old” within the Talking Bull though, clearly, “mature” was the description he sought. I’ve nearly run out of pins for the wax effigy). I feel I need to think wider and consider the positives. Hard not to mention the “elephant in the room” but only in context.
Let’s go there right now. I wanna tell you a story. Just a few years ago, I followed a Pulis team to a Premier League fixture at Stoke. During the first half, Stoke had two players sent off early doors. In a League where every point can be worth millions, this was a big, big gift. City re-organised in a 4-3-1 formation aiming for damage limitation. Pulis had other ideas. The back four stayed exactly where they were and the solitary forward ploughed his solo furrow. During a rare attack just before half team, Pulis’s Big Blokes took the lead. From then on, that goal was to be defended. Amid outrage at the away end, the ball went sideways, sideways, back. Hoof. The goalkeeper wasted time. The lone striker ran himself into the ground and was subbed. Outrage became apoplexy as Stoke’s 9 survivors attacked as best they could and came close on a couple of occasions to “nicking one”. Rarely are victors booed off the pitch but at 5pm, the bile flowed freely. As a direct consequence, a few supporters simply walked away, never to return. I decided never to travel to watch a Pulis team away from home again. There’s pragmatism and there is utter disregard for the Beautiful Game. This was the latter. I did not imagine I would ever see similar again.
Hereford FC do have some mitigation. I was grateful for the sagacious offerings from Steve Alexander perched behind me. One fanzine contribution and now he’s turned into Confucius. His soothing tones did make me think and maybe I bellowed “Forward” slightly less than those around me. Only slightly.
Our club have massively changed their personnel, more so than any other club in our Division. A bakers’ dozen of new arrivals, some very recent additions included make for an unsettling confusing period. Change 60% of the workforce in any environment and bedding in time is needed. Only 4 hours of weekly training… or 2 hours with midweek games is not conducive to instinctive understanding. Check out match reports of other NLN games and most will mention “not much action”, “the players are still bedding in”, “it was a frustrating night”. The teething problems are widespread in a League of one season contracts, constant change and ugly football. Performances will improve and we will all understand who plays best where.
Despite the shortcomings, Hereford FC have achieved their realistic points total. Four points sounded achievable and that’s what we got. We have an impressive albeit very early League position. Despite the question marks about our attack, we have scored 4 times. Only two clubs have more goals and purely because they’ve both played the hapless Bradford with Brackets but no defence. Nearly 24 hours after the grim spectacle in Worcestershire, I feel more mellow about the outcome.
Perhaps my fellow fanzine editor Keith Hall needed some words from Confucius during his interview with our Head Coach. Marc asserted that “Gloucester was a difficult place to come to.” Keith was no doubt too polite to point out City have only won one home game in 2019 but inwardly who knows. I get the sentiment, all around mutual respect for other clubs but there are times when discretion is better.
Yet not even Hereford’s new philosopher could make much of the notice at the refreshment point. “Bacon baps are available only before 12 Noon.” Clearly, local pigs have nothing to worry about.
A final thought. We’d put up with a less than sparkling performance if we can get a result at Kings Lynn. We owe them.
Image courtesy of Andy Walkden/Hereford FC