February 5th 1972

“Surprise of Day Hereford 2 Newcastle 1. Cup”

… and this was a surprise back then. I think it would still be a surprise if it happened now.

Newcastle were Division One (now “Premiership”) high-fliers, regarded as one of the best teams in the country. They had tough Scot Bobby Moncur captaining them, and upfront one of the beautiful game’s best-ever poach strikers in Malcolm MacDonald. Hereford, by stark contrast, were made up of part-time players in the “Southern League” (now “Conference League”). So, this was really a game of professional footballers vs dodgy plumbers.

It was a third-round replay in the FA Cup competition. Hereford had already caused a mjor upset in the first game, managing to draw with Newcastle at Newcastle’s ground. Despite this, everybody expected Newcastle to ‘take them apart’ in the replay. MacDonald even boasted in the media he was going to put 10 past them.

The omens, however, were not good. The replay had been postponed three times before, each time due to bad weather, and on each occasion the Newcastle team had actually travelled all the way down to the tiny Hereford ground before finding out they weren’t going to play.

16,000 or so people packed into the minuscule stadium, many more perched up and on any vantage point around it trying to catch the merest glimpse. The BBC covered the game (I had to google this, but I was pretty certain I watched it that night on TV with my Dad) so there were even more at home ‘rooting for the underdogs’. (Unless, of course, you lived in Newcastle)

Newcastle initially went 1-0 up. They were all over Hereford and it looked like this was going to be an anti-climax.

Nobody, however, had counted on Hereford’s steely resilience and a skinny bloke wearing a Number 11 shirt named Ronny “the Rocket” Radford…

There are more parkas there than at a Vespa convention.

From then until now, if there’s a match on where I have no ‘involvement’ (i.e. one where I really couldn’t care who wins), I will invariably root for the alleged ‘underdog’ team. Watching Hereford turn over Newcastle back then  made me believe that, from time to time, miracles can happen.

Also –  no doubt – the reason why I support Southampton FC.

Okay, okay, why I NOW support Southampton FC. (I can hear your snippy little ‘asides’ out there in the ether)

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