You can't beat a bit of Bully – unless it's Hereford United and those Bulls have beaten us again. But was that always the case?
Photo: "Billy Bullseye TV Character Fun Toy" by ChuckleBuzz.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You can’t beat a bit of Bully – unless it’s Hereford United and those Bulls have beaten us again. But was that always the case? After all, all those red flashes of our home kit could be like a red rag to a, well, y’know. The short answer is “no”. It actually came as a bit of a shock to look back at how many times we ended up playing them over the years. And the idea that our friends from Edgar Street had it all their own way against us is total bullsh…

Who are Hereford United?

Sadly, this is more a case of who were Hereford United. Formed in 1924, the Bulls made their home at Edgar Street from the start and never budged. The club came to be after a merger between two local amateur teams called St Martins and RAOC (Rotherwas). The aim was to bring a higher standard of football to the town. But two others – Hereford City and Hereford Thistle – opted out of it.

After starting out in the Birmingham & District League, the Bulls became members of the Southern League for the 1939-40 season. The Second World War meant it was a bit of a false start at first. But, soon enough, they got into their stride; challenging for league titles throughout the 1950s. They scored their fair share of goals too. They couldn’t quite make it up to the summit, however.

Well, unless you count the North Western zone title in 1958-9. It landed them the overall title after beating Bedford Town, the South Eastern zone winners, in a playoff.

Anyway, let’s move on. The 1960s weren’t amazing to start with and the Bulls went down in 1964; relegated to Division One. The return was immediate, to be fair. And a few years later, the club finished second in the Southern League and joined the Football League. It came after the same season in which Ronnie Radford did a goal. We say “joined”. What we mean is “were elected into”.

Can you imagine a competition where there was no automatic promotion and relegation? No, us neither.

Why do we know the Bulls?

The Bulls rose rapidly up the Football League; reaching Division Two within five seasons. The bubble burst and they returned straight back down to Division Four again. And it was how things stayed for the duration after that. Only twice between 1978 and 1996 were the Bulls able to finish in the top-half. That’s whether it’s Division Four or Division Three.

The 1995-6 season was one of those two; the Bulls ending up in sixth and nabbing a spot in the playoffs. It wasn’t to be as Darlington knocked them out at the semi-final stage. The reason for banging on about this particular campaign is not because we saw title success. It’s actually because it’s the season in which we first met the Bulls. And it was by virtue of the FA Cup First Round.

What is our record against them?

The draw took us to Edgar Street and it was no easy task. But we made a ruddy good go at it. On another day and with the rub of the green, we could’ve come back with a famous win to our name. Unfortunately, they battled to a 2-1 win and a place in the next round.

With Boro’ denied promotion at the end of the season and the Bulls looking strong in their own division, it didn’t seem as if we’d meet again any time soon. And then it all went badly wrong for them; from sixth in 1996 to 24th and relegation to the Conference in 1997.

We welcomed them with open arms on their arrival back in non-league football; winning 2-0 at Edgar Street during the early stages of the 1997-8 campaign. And we did pretty good out of those initial Conference clashes. We won four out of our first five meetings. Up until the end of the 2001-2 season, six victories and two draws from our 10 league games was a decent haul – even if the two defeats were heavier than anything we’d inflicted.

From that point, however, the Bulls got their act together; pushing hard to end their time in non-league purgatory they were in. Ending the 2002-3 season in sixth was nothing new for them. They ended in that same position at the end of their first Conference campaign. The real push followed. For three years on the bounce, the Bulls were the second-best team in the division; falling short by one point at the end of the 2003-4 campaign with 103 goals.

We had started ending up on the wrong side of results against them during this period too. Mind you, we picked our moments.

Michael Brough scored a 94th-minute winner at Edgar Street right at the start of the 2004-5 season to end a run of four games without success against them. And we repeated that trick right at the end of that season too; Dino Maamria on target this time to send us to the  Conference playoff final at the Britannia Stadium. The Bulls had again come second in the table. And again they’d mucked it up in the playoffs.

Hereford United: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 23 — W 9 — D 5 — L 9 — F 24 — A 26 — Pts 28 — WR 39%
Our last tango: Stevenage 0-1 Hereford United, 08 March 2011

What happened to them?

The 2005-6 season saw the Bulls come second (again). This time, however, there’d be no mistake in the playoffs. And up to League Two they went; beating Halifax Town in the final. After nine seasons in non-league football, they made it back to the Football League – and it’d get better too; securing promotion to League One at the second attempt.

League One wasn’t kind to them and the club’s latest ascent was at an end already. After coming straight back down to League Two, the Bulls started struggling in League Two as well. As we clinched the Blue Square Premier title in 2010, they were limping to 16th. The next season was worse still; Boro’ winning 4-1 at Edgar Street and (somehow) losing 1-0 at home as the Bulls avoided the drop by three points in 21st.

We disappeared upwards and, soon enough, the Bulls would disappear downwards. The 2011-2 season saw them relegated back out of the Football League. It’d be a permanent event too. Two years later, they were booted out of the Conference after initially surviving relegation on goal difference. Failure to pay their bills saw them expelled; seeking refuge in the Southern League. But the money worries wouldn’t go away.

It all then got very messy for the Bulls during the 2013-4 season. The FA suspended them from all football after “failing to fully and properly comply with… an Independent Regulatory Commission”. The ban was soon lifted, but the writing was on the wall. One week after the ban was lifted (and just a few days before Christmas 2014), Hereford United Football Club met its end in the High Court.

In its place, the ‘new’ Bulls are now on the comeback trail.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Hereford United club profile

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