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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Season, Same Problem, No Money

Continuing our series about the Graham Turner era at Edgar Street, today it is the 2000/2001 season.

Pre-season started with changes in the boardroom, Solicitors Tristran Richmond-Sterry and Sam Lodh resigned and accountant Hugh Brooks was appointed.

Turner was busy signing players. Michael McIndoe from Luton was one and Phil Robinson formerly from Stoke became player/coach. And he spent a lot of time trying to bring Steve Bull to Edgar Street.

"I'll be delighted if it comes off," said Turner. "It'll be a fairly loose arrangement. He knows me well enough and I know him well enough and if I can help him out on the first steps of a coaching and managerial career, then, as I say, I'd be delighted."

However striker Leroy May had left by mutual consent. It was later revealed that he had missed six of the first seven training sessions.

Turner was reported to be interested in Cardiff's Dai Thomas until it was revealed that he had been involved in Euro 2000 violence with English fans.

In early August keeper Matt Baker came on trial and later signed. And on August 9th in the last but one pre-season friendly the Bulls defeated Leicester 1-0. A young Trevor Benjamin played for the Foxes.

The first Conference league game of the season against Southport was drawn 0-0. However the Bulls were unbeaten in their first eight games and by mid-September were 2nd in the table.

Early in October Turner told the Independent how he couldn't compete with some other Conference chairmen.

"I couldn't afford to fund the club," he said. "Our income comes from football and other fund-raising activities."

"We still have ambitions to get back into the League, and to do so it's vital that we remain full-time. We have 14 full-time pros, of whom nine are 21 or under, and four part-timers. Our wage bill is smaller than a number of fully part-time clubs in this league."

With the Bulls playing well gates increased. Some 3,393 watched the 2-2 home draw with Yeovil, and around 1,000 supporters travelled to Rushden the following Saturday.

Then came the news that veteran Jimmy Quinn was to join the Bulls. He didn't last long.

There was no cup run that season as a trip to a wet and windy Woking ended in a 1-0 defeat.

"We enjoyed a tremendous run last year in the Cup, and it would be nice to get somewhere near emulating that. But to get to the glamorous ties you have to get through the awkward ones, and this will certainly be a tricky tie for us," said Turner before the game.

"To go out of the FA Cup was a big disappointment. It hurt me and hurt the players and is a disaster in terms of interest and in terms of finances", he said afterwards.

After the Woking defeat form improved with a run of two wins and two draws including a 4-2 away win at Scarborough. The Bulls were still in 4th position in Mid-February.

Off the pitch a memrobila sale was held at the Green Dragon in Hereford.

"I think the final figure will be about £7,500," said Turner. "We're delighted with the response - it was a good day. It helps to keep the club ticking along. The gate on Saturday was below the amount we'd budgeted for by about 600 and that's a big drop in the cash flow."

Meanwhile Turner appeared fed up with striker Steve Piearce.

"He's been banished from the club at the moment," said Turner. "It's been a succession of injuries since he's been with us. On Monday I told the coaches to treat him as if in cotton wool in training because we knew we needed a front man as Robin Elmes was unavailable. At the moment I don't know how the situation will be resolved."

Defender Chris Lane was sold to Southport for £12,500 in early January. Supporters were not happy. And at Northwich the following day Turner struggled to pick a squad so named Steve Bull on the bench. His debut was short as he had to be subbed after just 14 minutes with a hamstring problem.

"Not unexpectedly there was a backlash to the sale of Chris Lane," said Turner. "There was a great deal of criticism flying about with even a suggestion that we may be better to let the club fold which is quite ludicrous.

"It seems that when football business decisions are taken rational thinking goes out of the window. Let me make it quite clear once again that I nor our board of directors wish to sell players. We have this dream that we can restore this club to a place in the Football League and financial stability. However, faced with threats of a court action or failure of the company voluntary arrangement and subsequent closing of the club, we are occasionally forced to do things that are unpalatable."

The following home game was against Hayes. Although the Bulls won 3-2 many supporters stayed away.

"We have won and have had a good run at home the past month, but the worrying thing is the attendance," said Turner. "The gate of 1368 is not enough to pay the wages. Yet we are fourth in the table and probably having our best Conference season. So I don't really know what more we can do to attract more through the turnstiles."

Turner was unhappy with some posts on the club forum.

"We feel that our Web Site Forum has on occasion been used as a vehicle in an attempt to divide the Club, particularly the relationship between the board and HUISA where unfounded, undeserved comments and criticism of voluntary members of that committee are unacceptable."

In February Michael McIndoe was sold to Yeovil for £25,000 and a sell-on clause.

"Without income from transfers we would go out of business, it's as simple as that," said Turner. "Obviously we are sorry to lose McIndoe, but we have made it clear it would be unavoidable that we transfer players because of our financial situation. It's part and parcel of football trading. We have had to do it to keep the club alive for the last five years."

On the pitch Steve Bull scored his first goal for the Bulls in the home game against Nuneaton which was drawn 1-1. But after that game it was all downhill with just one point from the next six games. Then a surprise win against Rushden rallied the players and fans, but the next four League games were drawn.

There was some consolation. A useful run in the FA Trophy saw the Bulls in the semi-final drawn against Forest Green Rovers.

A couple of weeks before the Trophy defeat Turner spoke to the Mirror.

"The daft thing I did was taking on the chairmanship! It's difficult to compete, there's no one investing in us and we're up against many Conference clubs who have benefactors - like Telford and Rushden. My enjoyment comes from the football side and the non-enjoyment is on the administration side. I'd rather be talking to players than grovelling to the VAT or tax man. But we've kept the club in business."

At the time foot and mouth was making life difficult in Herefordshire. The county FA banned football to try and help stop the spread of the disease but Hereford United decided to carry on as usual.

The first leg of the Trophy game was drawn 2-2 with Rob Elmes scoring both goals for the Bulls. However the Bulls lost the second leg at Edgar Street 4-1 in front of a decent gate of 4175. Turner wasn't pleased and neither were a section of the fans who demonstrated outside the players entrance.

"It was a crushing blow for us," said Turner. "But we've done our crying over the weekend and we have to get back to work now. We would probably have earned £100,000 if we'd got to the final, but we are out, we have had a good run and we had no complaints on the day. We need to start putting our game right now."

The Bulls lost their next game, away at Dover, but the following Saturday pulled off a shock by defeating Rushden and Diamonds 3-1.

A Fans Forum was held after the Dover game and Turner was pressed to appoint a new manager.

"If it's the overwhelming feeling that it's time for me to go then I will step aside gladly," said Turner.

"If the feeling is it's time for a change then I need to be told in the correct manner. There's no point kicking the door down, just come and say the supporters have had enough."

The lowest attendance ever recorded for a League/Conference game came about on April 18th. Kingstonian were the visitors, the game was drawn 0-0 and just 867 watched.

Turner noted "I appreciate the fact that they turned up."

On May 1st, the Bulls travelled to Yeovil on a warm Spring evening and came away 3-2 winners which ended the home sides promotion hopes. Ian Rodgerson scored the winner in injury time.

But despite there being eight goals, the Bulls lost 5-3 at Boston on the last day of the season.

After a great start, the season went down hill. In truth Turner once again had to sell players to try and balance the books. But then as form dipped gates dropped and some supporters started to question whether Turner could both be chairman and manager of Hereford United.