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Monday, May 22, 2006

Hereford get redemption

Another report, this from Stuart James iin the Guardian:

For nine long years Graham Turner and Hereford United have sought redemption. The memories of a painful and highly emotional afternoon in May 1997 when Football League status was surrendered at the hands of Brighton left an indelible mark on the club and an even greater burden on their manager. The time spent toiling in the Conference has felt like a prison sentence for Turner but on Saturday he finally tasted freedom as Hereford claimed a place in League Two for next season.

As manager, chairman and majority shareholder Turner is entitled to take all the plaudits that will follow promotion. His CV charts more celebrated moments, including the old Third Division championship with Shrewsbury in 1978-79 and successive lower league titles with Wolves after a two-year spell at Aston Villa, but this was an achievement to cherish. After his investment of money as well as time, the reward is long overdue.

"I've dedicated 11 years of my life to Hereford United, so that's the personal expense but it's been worth it," Turner. said. "It was a foolish thing to buy shares in a football club. There's not a shadow of doubt about that and there's probably not been a day gone by that I haven't regretted it because what you do is you get entrenched. You can't walk away from it as managers could. That involvement has taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work, most of it away from the playing side, but right at the moment the feeling is whatever I've regretted, I don't regret a thing now because it's all come right."

Few will begrudge Hereford a place in the Football League. For the third successive season they finished runners-up in the Conference; on the previous two occasions they had lost in the semi-final . Against that backdrop even Chris Wilder, the Halifax manager, had to concede Hereford's ascent is deserved. "They have been tremendous competitors in the Conference," he said. "They have had the heartbreak that we have had today and, as their manager said, if there was any justice it was going to be their day."

With only 17 minutes remaining, though, it again appeared that fate had conspired against Hereford and their 10,000 supporters. After Andy Williams' far-post header cancelled out Lewis Killeen's superb early goal, Halifax again seized the initiative and seemed set to end their four-year exile from the Football League when John Grant, a former Hereford player, adroitly flicked in a volley from the corner of the six-yard box after Killeen, a persistent threat, crossed from the left.

But the introduction of Guy Ipoua proved inspired and within four minutes the Cameroon international emphatically headed home to send the game into extra-time. Halifax, visibly tiring after starting so impressively, were chastened and Hereford took full advantage. Ryan Green, the youngest player to represent Wales at full international level, bought himself another place in history with a sweeping left-foot shot that secured victory.

"I can recall that day when we went down against Brighton," said Turner. "It was full of despair, I've never known such emotion but probably distance lends a little bit of forgetfulness. I've been to Wembley with Wolves with 80,000 there, great days, a couple of championships. But under the circumstances and possibly because of my involvement as chairman and majority shareholder, this was as big as anything I've done. After nine years it has put right what went wrong on that day against Brighton."

Man of the match Guy Ipoua (Hereford)