Friday, November 02, 2012
Bulls fan Jamie Howard is with the RAF at a base just outside of Lincoln. He wrote the following for their magazine about his love of Hereford United:
I was asked to pen a few words to show the human side of JSSU Digby, what actually drives individuals behind the wire and some other hippy stuff. Selfishly perhaps I decided to twist it a bit and talk about Hereford United and what it means to me and then I thought about football in general and my mates and what it means to ‘us’ this is what I came up with – I hope you enjoy:
Being a lad from Hereford (although not born, just bred – my head isn’t actually pointy!) I have supported Hereford United Football Club since I was 13. My first ever match was HUFC vs. Cambridge United … we lost 0-2 but the atmosphere was electric, old 4th Division, stood in a crowd of a few thousand cheering on the local side – I was hooked!
That season we also played and lost to Man Utd in the 4th round of the FA Cup 0-1 … Clayton Blackmore! I was stood behind the goal in bitterly cold water as he drove in the goal and heard the loudest roar I had ever heard in my life! – 1990 the year Sir Alex Ferguson famously guided the team on to lift the cup at Wembley – wow – how could I not go back and watch HUFC I mean if Man Utd turn up with all their stars and supporters to play at Edgar Street then surely it must happen all the time … right? That year we went on to win the Welsh Cup at Cardiff Arms Park vs. Wrexham – we won 2-1 thanks to an Ian Benbow goal. Surely all seasons would be as great as this wouldn’t they? No! But 22 years later I still hold my breath and feel that sense of anxiety before and during every match.
It’s amazing how you can put yourself in specific locations when major events in your life occur – especially when you tie it in with football.
1997 just starting a 3 year tour in Northern Ireland – finally returning to the UK with the previous 5 years lost to Basic Training and a posting to Cyprus – Not good! – Hereford were down in the Conference and the only live football option open to me was Linfield – at least it was only 20 minutes by train. On the plus side I did see Michael Owen in his first season at Liverpool on a pre-season tournament – Christ he was quick in his prime!
2001, my first tour of Kosovo, playing football with the locals with my rifle strapped to my back was as close as I got to any match that year! The only memorable part of the year was Gav Williams saving the club with his goal vs. Dover Athletic – a TV tie with Wrexham and the money it brought saved the club. Remember this because I was stuck in the middle of a wood on a mountain during a major operation with hayfever. That meant I looked like an incredible sluggy thing all snot and tears … bad times indeed.
2003 Iraq – Operation Telic! I was sat in Basra International Airport during the fighting phase. I had already written a letter to Graham Turner asking the boys to pull their fingers out. The team were a shambles at the time and being on a Squadron full of Swansea supporters’ life wasn’t too pleasant. Expecting nothing in the mail run as usual I was shocked and indeed ear to ear grinny in seconds few as Graham had written back on behalf of the Club and the Team and were wishing me luck and telling me to stay safe (which was a given to be honest) but it instantly cheered me up. Brilliant! The club I cared for actually cared back.
20 May 2006. My second tour of Kosovo, sat in the bar on Mt Golez. 4 Brits, 8 Americans, 4 Locals and a dog with more lice and tics than a tramps convention. It was to be the single most enjoyable day I have ever spent on operations. It was my day off and I had sole access to the TV remote. For those that don’t know Hereford beat Halifax 3-2. The only real thing I remember after enough liquid company to kill the nerves (and then some) and at least 20 nervously smoked cigarettes in 120 minutes was the sweet blessed relief and joy as the ball crossed the line courtesy of Ryan Green – 7th heaven! Dancing around a mountain top singing ‘Hereford United We All Love You’ at the top of my lungs! Then spending the next day nursing a hangover that would kill a civi.
Jan to June 2012. The Falkland Islands. The end of an extremely poor season – in fact then end of several extremely poor seasons and losing faith that we would pull through – we didn’t! The final day of the season I was sat in the Mt Pleasant Sgts Mess drowning my sorrows with tepid cans of Carlsberg. Once again though, sporting HUFC colours. Thinking ahead of new heroes and villains and a life back in the Conference … it hurt.
I have seen good cup runs, Play Offs both won and lost – 3 promotions and 4 relegations. Some football shirts that really provoke stomach churning revulsion and dome that are forever going to be associated with success and fond memories.
Now we are in 2012 and staring administration in the face. No money, people doing sponsored walks / tattoos and waxing to raise money for the club to stay in existence. The gates are down and we have a huge VAT bill as well as PAYE payments to make … time are hard and things look bad.
Personally I feel this year I have pulled my weight as a supporter to help the club in its hour of need. Sam Clucas our ‘Electric’ forward (well more ‘volty’) has his home shirt sponsored by JSSU (D) Supporters’. That equates to me and my loving and patient girlfriends son George. We did have a third member but we had to re home Squig – our dog (although I always suspected him of being a Kiddy Harriers fan anyway) I also sponsor our goal keeper James Bittner’s home shirt under my own name. He’s not a bad shot stopper and is rare in the BBSP as he can catch a cross (Sometimes) – financially this has set me back £600. Each match costs me £31 to attend for both me and George (to be fair that’s inclusive of a programme each) and I will be honest – I do like to partake of a few before and at half time in Addisons. I have made a £100 donation to the Save the Bulls fund as well. The icing on the cake for me personally this year is sponsoring the match ball for the FA Cup 1st round game vs. Shrewsbury … I cannot wait!
Between us both George and I own nearly the entire range of merchandise from the club shop which infuriates my lass. George had absolutely no interest in football until this season and now …. Well … the long haired general isn’t happy with me. It doesn’t help when Georges stock response to any question now is ‘Well it’s what Blokes do’ … Some things children should NOT repeat!
I think it is fair to say Hereford United are my passion! Yes I know it reads an advert or an election pamphlet but I can in no other way explain just how much MY team mean to me. How much MY team have been an anchor back to my home over the last 20 years in the forces. I make no apology for that and never will.
One of the things I enjoy most though is taking my mates to games. A Cardiff City supporter (designated driver and confirmed football addict) a Middlesbrough supporter (although admittedly taking a shaved ape from Stockton does mean I have to inform the authorities beforehand) A Tottenham supporter (fair play she knows her football) and Jolene (the bar is open before kick-off and at half time!)
The football isn’t what they are used to and after watching so many long balls, up & unders and good old fashioned ‘hoofs’ there are minor complaints of sore necks but hey, that’s low level football for you … raw and earthy. The moments of sublime magic stick out even more - Jacksons goal vs. Macclesfield anyone !?! just me then.
The players interact with the supporters at HUFC too. Could you imagine tweeting a Man Utd player and asking them if they could not only sign personally but get the squad to sign a shirt for your lads birthday present and it actually happening? I think not.
I have already had to break the news to ‘she that must be obeyed’ that I won’t be home on 17 Nov 12 as HUFC are playing Lincoln. So far I have recruited 3 others from Digby to come along and watch, I even made an offer to loan them HUFC shirts so they fit in … Although they are not ‘that’ keen on the offer … their loss!
Being in the forces I absolutely love football and especially MY team. I also love observing other peoples teams too – we all know who supports who, how each other’s team is getting along. Footy is a massive icebreaker and it’s a common talking point. We are all equal as supporters and when deployed on operations or exercise or even just in work, the passing of the latest footy scores and league tables can have a massive positive effect on morale. I know. I have been that man! Most of all though I love showing off my beloved Bulls to everyone and anyone and will do so at every opportunity
Come On You Bulls …..