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Sunday, August 21, 2016

50 Years Ago - John Charles Starts For Hereford

It's fifty years ago this weekend that John Charles played his first game for Hereford United.

Charles was appointed manager at Edgar Street after leaving Cardiff City in the summer of 1966.

He started his career at Swansea before joining Leeds where he stayed for nine years, including a spell of National Service, before moving to Juventus.

Hereford United showed how determined they were to recruit Charles in the last week of May 1966. Vice-chairman Harold Rumsey and Supporters Club chairman Frank Miles flew to Nice and then drove onto Diano Marina where they found Charles playing tennis.

Eventually they spoke to the 'Gentle Giant'.

"It went smoothly. John was such a nice bloke. He didn't ask for the sky," said Miles afterwards.

"One advantage was that John wanted to stay in Cardiff and Hereford isn't that far from Cardiff."

Charles knew a bit about Edgar Street having played there for Cardiff in a friendly.

On July 3rd Charles agreed to sign for Hereford but not before he had spoken to a friend Ray Daniel who was playing for the club at the time.

Daniel told him that Hereford was the 'best club he had ever played for.'

That helped him make up his mind as he recalled in his autobiography.

"That was certainly good enough for me and, in my case, their sole ambition was to gain entry into the exclusive club of the Football League."

Charles played in several pre-season friendlies but he made his debut for Hereford on August 20th.

Bedford Town were the opponents in what was Hereford's first Southern League Premier Division game.

With the town and county 'buzzing' with the news that Charles had come to Hereford, the gate was 4,683 the biggest since 1953 and 2,000 more than the opening fixture the previous season.

Hereford won the game 5-1 with Charles on the score sheet.

There was no doubt he could still do the business as Steph Carter said as reported by leeds-fans.

"I had the privelege of watching John Charles in my first ever football game- Hereford United v Chelmsford City in late 1966, and then for 3 1/2 seasons after that. Even in the twilight of his career, with me as a 6 year old lad, I could see that this was no ordinary footballer. I remember looking with awe at size and muscularity of his neck, and wondering why he could head the ball as hard as many players could kick it.

"In those southern league days it almost got to the point where a free kick outside the box was as good as a penalty, as, providing the cross was accurate, there was only one place the ball was going once it met John Charles' head."