Hereford Flashback - Andy D'Urso
Anyway, Andy D'Urso had a competent game, not affecting the result, Stockport were the better side and deserved their win. Our post match pub flannel didn't, therefore, revolve around our defeat too much but certainly reminisced on two of Mr D'Urso's previous games where he reffed (i'm now using the term loosely) our games. These two memorable matches were at Chesterfield in November 1994 and at Fulham just under a year later.
The Chesterfield match was one HUFC fans always travelled to expecting a defeat, we never won there, rarely scored in fact. Our record there in the 80s and 90s (didn't change last season either!) was as bad as just up the road at Donny, but unlike Donny there was the pull of one the country's finest real ale pubs as pre-match entertainment. The Derby Tup was already a well known venue with many Bulls fans so 4 of us decided to let the train take the strain on this occasion. I do remember our Brizzle based (at the time) Bull getting on the train and his copy of the Western Daily Press saying we'd signed some utility player called John Brough from non-league Telford. Not a signing that inspired any of us at that moment but Basil ended up playing more league football than us Hereford supporters would be watching over the next 10 years!
This was the brief chaotic pre Dick Bate era of John Layton. There had been some good signings from unexpected sources, Brough, Fishlock, Lloyd and some good coaching of the younger players. But there was complete inconsistency with the performances, a general lack of organisation at the back (remember Hitchin, Preston, Walsall and ultimately the 7-1 defeat at Mansfield with Layton saying 'if they won't play I can't make them'?) and, when they could be bothered, some excellent football from the likes of Richard Wilkins, Tony James (the first), Chalky White, Nicky Cross and the sadly all too brief flowering of local youngster Phil Preedy. Post Mansfield it was the infamous Bate 9-0-1 formation (sometimes less positive than that) but it steered us to a safe (almost mid-table!) position, however that was still 6 weeks or so away, this was still the chaotic Hereford and anything could happen .......... perhaps we'd even score at Saltergate.
At Chesterfield we were due to meet (ex) Brizzle Bull's Scumchester United supporting mate and we were told all about him .... how he was a real supporter etc etc, don't take the p1ss etc etc .... as if we would, this was 3 days after they'd been battered 4-0 by Barcelona! Anyway, as I discovered Steve was (is) a decent bloke, yes a real genuine fan and from Manchester to boot and we've seen him at various Hereford games in the north of England over the past dozen or so years ........ nevertheless, I think Barca were mentioned about 10 seconds after we met.
The Derby Tup was as excellent as ever, Steve could not understand us getting in a cheeky last pint at 2.30 when we were still several miles from the ground. Sadly, we made it to the ground on time, squeezing on to the Leominster Supporters bus and parking up outside the away end ........ don't suppose you can get away with that at Old Trafford.
Don't remember too much about the game, apart from where the ref got involved; ex-Bull loanee Darren Roberts was sent off by Mr D'Urso for some supposed violent action no-one noticed, but we soon went a goal behind. Against 10 men we meandered through the second half until another home player was dismissed after a harsh second yellow. We camped on the edge of the Chesterfield area but were never going to score until with only a few minutes left a white (with horrible black dash things) shirt tripped over a blade of grass in the area, no serious appeals from other players or from the terrace behind the goal, but Mr D'Urso saw something and a pen it was.
The laughter subsided as we realised it was just a reason for more humiliation; (ex) Brizzle Bull ........ 'we'll miss', Steve 'Why are you lot so negative!!??' The question was answered perfectly by the Nicky Cross penalty, over the bar, over our heads and into the street behind. Now that's what supporting a clueless lower division club is all about!!
10 months later, with a certain Graham Turner in charge it was a nice day out to West London to see us play at Fulham. Little would we know from this shambles of a game, or the rest of the season, how the fortunes of the two clubs would change in the next few years; we'd spend a decade in the Conference, despite reaching the play offs in the season in question, while Fulham in receipt of Al-Fayed's millions would surge to the Premier League guided initially by Mickey Adams' hoofball, but then under the more exciting style of Kevin Keegan. At the time Fulham were a relatively big club for the 4th tier but no bigger than many other clubs who'd spent plenty of time down there; at the time Cardiff, Preston and Plymouth were bigger clubs in the same division and Wigan were just starting to benefit from Dave Whelan's monetary input with their purchase of the 'three amigos', one of them now manager at Swansea of course.
It was another top day out, too much beer in a local Firkin pub before and after the game, a good curry somewhere and a long snore on the rattler home. In between all that was a pretty dull football match livened up by the dismissal of Steve Blatherwick (2 petty yellows) and Keith Downing (reckless challenge = red card) and the brave rearguard action by the remaining 9 United players. Fulham were so clueless that frankly we were slightly disappointed we didn't pinch one and end up winning the match. Of course, the referee got plenty of friendly advice on his performance from the travelling Bulls, including me. I'm sure I recall the legendary GFB being particularly vocal ..... yes, I know you'll find that concept difficult. I don't know whether we made the connection at the time with the game at Chesterfield, probably not, we all tend to remember referees that cost our teams (eg Woolmer, or CliveThomas if you're as old as me) but not so often when they give us dodgy decisions in our favour. After these 2 games D'Urso belonged in both categories. He went on to officiate regularly in the Premier League, never far from controversy. Frankly, I think he was desperate to make his name and those refs who make the most 'noise' often seem to get to the top quicker.
It's unlikely but if Mr D'Urso's performance this Saturday comes close to matching either of the two above then we'll be in for a memorable afternoon's football.