You Can’t Beat A Bit Of Bully

This article first appeared in MEHSTG Vol.2 Issue 13 – March 2000

For every FA Cup triumph there is a disaster. For every emphatic win, there is a heavy defeat. And then there are those games which are just soooooo bad, that you just wish that the match is drawn and over very quickly.All this talk of mascots brought to mind one such FA Cup tie all too clearly. The date – Saturday 6th January 1996. The place – Edgar Road. The match – Hereford United versus Tottenham Hotspur. The weather – godawful. The crowd – 8806.

But the statistics don’t even tell half the story of this match.

The rain started falling shortly after we passed the Midlands and kept on falling until we got home. Not since an FA Cup tie at Oldham Athletic in 1988 had I been so wet at a football match. And that was with the benefit of being under cover this time !! The main surprise was that the game was on at all. It was one of those trips when you were tuned in to any radio station you could get to obtain the latest report on whether or not the game would take place.

Arriving in Hereford, the sun broke through just long enough for us to get a programme and get into the ground before the deluge re-started. The pitch was what you would expect from a Third Division ground – lumpy and bumpy with the going decidedly heavy. Not a lot seemed to have changed since the great Parka invasion of 1970 when the home side (as a non league team) beat Newcastle United there. How were Tottenham’s silky skills were expected to flourish on this mudheap ? How were Ronnie Rosenthal and Ruel Fox going to show the folk of the West Country exactly what they were capable of on this ground ?

The mascot bit came in the shape of their 2 ton prize bull who was paraded around the pitch before the game. He was lead by a man in a white coat, when really it should have been a man in a white coat leading him away. Anyone wanting to get that close to a year’s supply of prime beef must be a little bit of a mad cow. But, he was harmless enough. Not what you could say for the team !!

Well, it was one of those games where Spurs were not really up for it and Hereford had a day to remember. From the off they fancied their chances against the fancy-dans of White Hart Lane and it was only some last ditch defending that saved Spurs. The white shirted home side ploughed through the mud, while Tottenham looked all at sea and it was against the run of play that we took the lead. It came from a shot by Darren Caskey that was going a mile wide, but then Ronnie Rosenthal came out of the blue (or should that be the brown) to head it goal-wards and stun the Hereford supporters. Normally it would have ended up near the corner flag, but there the ball was nestling in the net. Joy unbounded, but then in the second half, oops. A penalty for the U’s when Caskey and Rosenthal were adjudged to have fouled John Pounder. Up stepped Dean Smith, who we were informed was deadly from the spot, but then he proceeded to blast the ball high and slightly wide and it seemed that with it their best chance flew away with it. They kept plugging away and eventually Spurs cracked and with a header from a corner John Brough equalised. The rest of the match sunk into the mire and a replay at the Lane was to follow.

This is when the trouble started. Tottenham said the bull could not come to the Lane as Hereford’s mascot. The thought of the beast getting loose and marauding around the stadium like a demented John Hartson was too much for the safety people to consider risking. So the bull stayed at home and missed the 5-1 demolition of the U’s (why are they nicknamed after a sheep when their badge is a bull?). A Teddy Sheringham hat-trick and two from Chris Armstrong (yes, you heard right) made the tie safe for Tottenham and saw them through to a fourth round tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were without a mascot at the time … but that was to change !! The best goal of the night was reserved for last and it was a blockbuster of a shot from Gareth Stoker from 25 yards that left Walker beaten all ends up, hit the bar, rebounded onto the back of Ian’s head and then into the net. The funny thing was it came approaching the last minute and the bloke who sits next to us had just gone off to collect his winnings put on Spurs to win 5-0 !! Was he mad when we saw him at the next home match !!

It just goes to show that mascots can be lucky … doesn’t it ?


If the report (left) is to be believed, the shit could really have hit the fan !!      


Peter O’HanraO’Hanrahan