Hereford United: The end of the affair for the broken Bulls

By Trevor OwensBBC Hereford & Worcester sports editor
Hereford United's finest hour - Ronnie Radford's famous FA Cup thunderbolt
Ronnie Radford's famous FA Cup thunderbolt against Newcastle United in 1972 remains the Bulls' finest moment

Those fans of Premier League clubs bemoaning their team's lowly league position or the manager's inactivity in the January transfer window should spare a thought for Hereford United supporters.

The winding-up of this proud old club six days before Christmas probably went unnoticed by most, with attention directed towards tinsel and turkey. But it was felt keenly in Herefordshire and in other parts of the country where non-league traditions are held dear.

When it came, the end was as brutal as the saga had been protracted. After months of adjournments, the courts took only five minutes to bring down the curtain on 90 years of footballing history in Hereford.

The Bulls' past
Formed in 1924, Hereford United have played football at Edgar Street for the past 90 years
The Bulls have reached the FA Cup eight times in their history, the first and most famous of them in 1972, when their success helped earn them an end-of-season invitation into the Football League
Although relegated in 1997, they were promoted back to the League under Graham Turner in 2006, but relegated again six years later

Hereford United's chairman Andy Lonsdale claimed he was stuck in traffic with proof of his proposed £1m investment, but the authorities were having none of it and rightly wound up the club.

Despite claims that United would submit an appeal, the deadline passed and no such appeal was lodged.

And now that the Southern League have confirmed Hereford United's record for this season has been expunged, it is confirmation that there is to be no way back.

The reaction among supporters has been a strange cocktail of sadness, relief and even celebration.

It was clear to even the casual fan that the 2014-15 incarnation of Hereford United was a basket case, labouring under unsustainable debts and attracting gates of only a few hundred.

The Bulls' present
After staying up in remarkable circumstances on the final day of the season, the Hereford United Supporters' Trust offer to buy the club for £1 and clear their £220,000 debts. But owner David Keyte opts instead to sell to Tommy Agombar. Eight days later, they are expelled from the Conference for failing to pay football creditors.
Having been accepted into the Southern League, the club spend the rest of 2014 worrying about a threat of liquidation, experiencing eight adjournments before being wound up in the Royal Courts of Justice on 19 December. Their final game was a 1-1 draw at Dunstable on 13 December, but this season's playing record has now been expunged.

The club limped along, seemingly powered only by promises of payment tomorrow as, led by the Supporters' Trust, the majority of fans were boycotting home matches until football creditors were paid.

Almost immediately the focus switched to a possible new club playing out of Edgar Street in the 2015-16 season.

A consortium of local businessmen claims to have £150,000 of donations in place to help meet start-up costs and they are in talks with both Herefordshire Council over the leases on Edgar Street and the Supporters' Trust whose backing they acknowledge is vital.

It will be a long way back, with many hurdles to overcome that will test the resolve of even the most loyal supporter.

The irony has not entirely been lost on me that FA rules dictate that any new club cannot be called 'United', and yet the faithful fans will now need to be more united than ever.

The Bulls' future
A newly-formed Phoenix-club Hereford FC plan to play out of Edgar Street next season, possibly two levels down in the Midland Football League, but have been told by the Football Association that they must have to satisfy the Football Association's stipulations at the end of 1 March.

Spare a thought for some of the innocent victims. Uppermost among these are the many creditors who will now never be paid, or the club's young players, who often looked bewildered by what was going on around them.

The Southern League is one of only a number of governing bodies that needs to take a long, hard look at its part in this saga.

Coming in the month that that the FA Cup is back in the spotlight again, Ronnie Radford's screamer against Newcastle United from 1972 has once again been shown many times.

But Hereford fans know it will be a long time before they have the chance to pack Edgar Street for a similar occasion.

Crucially, enough of them believe it will happen again so as to hopefully ensure another Hereford club can rise from the ashes.

BBC Hereford & Worcester sports editor Trevor Owens has followed United, first as a fan, then as a commentator, for over 40 years.

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