Matchworn Hereford FC Poppy Home Shirt 2018-2020

As the end of 2019’s first month steadfastedly approaches and our previous articles have gone down a storm this year, it’s time to cast our eyes towards a new frontier; that of the elusive ‘Poppy’ shirts, which are revered and reviled in equal measure by football shirt collectors for their rarity. To introduce this elusive breed of kit, we are proud to present the current home shirt of Hereford FC!

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Even though that little red Poppy is enough to send many a kit enthusiast over the edge with excitement, shirts and the clubs that wear them remain front and centre here at Club 25 as we bring you a brand new article every week.

As such, it is relevant to note that we are looking at another Macron shirt, after having covered Ross County’s 18/19 home shirt last week. The Italian company, headquartered in Bologna, first arrived on British shores in 2001 through their sponsorship of Swansea City, before establishing themselves as the fourth/fifth biggest supplier of teamwear in the English football pyramid (behind Nike/adidas/Puma and tied with Umbro), and have been Hereford FC’s kit partner since the very first season of play for the Bulls.

An illustrous name in non-league football and the lower two tiers of the Football League, the city of Hereford was long represented by Hereford United. Founded in 1924, United were elected to the Football League in 1972, relegated from League 2 for the final time in 2012, and wound up in 2014 amidst financial difficulties that club officials and owners like David Keyte (failed to pay playing staff and amassed debts to the tune of 1.2 million Pounds), Tommy Agombar (best known for lorry theft and spending time in prison), and Andy Lonsdale (who previously displaced Feltham FC and used their stadium as an illegal dumping ground) had failed to properly address. The 19th of December 2014 saw a court hearing regarding the winding up of United, with Lonsdale claiming to be stuck in traffic and thus unable to provide proper evidence of having the finances to continue running the club; with no alternative forthcoming, the book was closed on 90 years of footballing history in this Herefordshire city.

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(Picture by Bulls News) The line-up ahead of Hereford FC’s first ever match, away at Malvern Town

Or so one may have thought; the news of Hereford United being dissolved was met with disappointment, sadness, and anger by the club’s loyal fans, but also elicited relief and initiative. Frustrated by the years of instability brought on by charlatans and snake oil salesmen, the fans had been considering the founding of a fan’s club, not unlike those of other ex-Football League clubs such as Accrington Stanley, Chester City, Rushden & Diamonds, and Darlington

It took all of three days following the winding up of United for the name Hereford Football Club to be registered, 5 days for outlines for a crest and kit to be released, and 10 days for a site to be launched by a group of benefactors and the Hereford United Supporters Trust (HUST). With the Herefordshire Council, who had retained possession of United’s Edgar Street stadium, kindly agreeing to giving the phoenix club a five year lease and Peter Beadle, United’s final caretaker manager, agreeing to become head coach, Hereford FC were ready for life in the Midland Football League Premier Division (9th tier of English football) starting from the 2015/2016 season onwards.

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Rather unsurprisingly, fans voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the traditional strips of Hereford United; white shirts, black shorts, and white socks would be the standard at Edgar Street once more.

A similar landslide occurred in the vote for the new club crest; over 900 fans weighed in, with some 89% supporting the winning design that remains on the club’s kits to this day. Designed by Huw, Max, and Louis Marriott, the crest retained the iconic bull’s head that first debuted on United’s shirts in 1950 and was never replaced. The head is based on a fine specimen of the Hereford, one of the most well-known and widespread breeds of Bovinae (for the biologically oblivious, Bovinae includes most everything that resembles a cow).

Where the last United crest was decidedly round, the FC crest utilizes a shield outline in in black and red with the latter being the traditional tertiary colour, which has been conspicuously absent on FC’s shirts despite a fair few United shirts having used it to some degree. Colour considerations aside, the new crest is a decent modern take on an old favourite that perfectly represents city and county through the bull as centrepiece. The ‘Forever United’ banner is another lovely and strong nod to the past, which reflects the club’s vision as being a full continuation of the old Hereford United and thus a true phoenix club in spirit. Despite this, FC are not allowed to claim United’s historic achievements as they are a fully separate entity in legal terms, a necessary evil as the club would have incurred the debts of the old club otherwise.

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Despite Hereford United’s instability in its final years, the club had remarkably loyal sponsors; local brand Sun Valley, specializing in poultry products (somewhat ironic considering the crest espouses beef cattle), were principal sponsors for a whopping 24 years (albeit under the name Cargill in the final few seasons). During those years, Hereford wore brands like Matchwinner and Scoreline, juggernauts of the time, but also less familiar names like M&M Sports and Pallini. Nike were suppliers from 2004 through 2009, Admiral for the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 seasons, and Erreà for United’s final three years.

Despite club colours and the important parts of the crest being passed on to Hereford FC, Erreà were not; instead, Macron Neath, based in the eponymous Welsh town near Swansea and responsible for Macron’s introduction in the UK back in 2001 and the distribution of its products on the British isles since, ended up landing the Hereford FC contract, inking a two year deal in May 2015 ahead of the club’s inaugural season. As seen with the lineup versus Malvern Town, Macron’s Jupiter template was chosen for home and away shirts, in accordance with Hereford’s policy of rotating shirts once every two years (which usually means the home shirt is replaced in even and away shirts in uneven numbered years).

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(Picture courtesy of Bulls News)

The Jupiter design was kept for just one season, with a bespoke design introduced for 2016/2017 – a rather unusual but welcome move for a club that was playing in the Southern Football League Division One South & West (8th tier) at the time following a championship and promotion at the first time of asking.

To the surprise of exactly no one, Hereford FC stormed to the title with 108 points from 42 matches in 16/17 – the club’s loyal fans coming out in droves time and again to support their team, which ensured plenty of income from gate receipts. Promoted to the Southern Football League Premier Division for 2017/2018, Hereford again clobbered the entire league to take the title, this time with 113 points from 46 games.

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(Picture courtesy of Bulls News)

This third league title in a row ensured Hereford FC would be playing in the National League North during the 2018/2019 season, which is just one promotion away from the level from whence the old club was expelled back in 2013/2014. The bespoke shirt was two seasons old at that point, and thusly rotated out in favour of the Alphard template design we see before us today, in what Macron has officially labelled white and black but is, in effect, a combination of white and grey hoops with black detailing.

One month into the season, Peter Beadle was fired with Tim Harris subsequently appointed as Director of Football and Marc Richards as head coach. The duo has set their sights on the preservation of Hereford’s place in the National League North as a short term goal, with the development of a squad that can push for promotion to the National League and doorstep of the Football League as a long term aim. The team currently sits 17th in the league table, four points clear from the relegation zone.

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Having introduced the club and its predecessor, as well as their combined stories of footballing highs and lows, we can now move our focus to the speck of red and black that is found in the centre of the chest, between Macron’s embroidered wordmark and Hereford’s crest.

It is but a Poppy (officially Remembrance Poppy), a symbol that needs no introduction to most anyone living on the British isles but can often confuse foreigners as to what its exact meaning is. Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae, which in turn was inspired by the Papaver rhoeas which were the first flowers to grow from graves on the front lines of the First World War, the Remembrance Poppy has become the foremost commemorative symbol of military service in the United Kingdom. It is trademarked by the Royal British Legion, which provides all manner of support to servicemen and veterans of the British Armed Forces.

The Poppy appears in the run-up to Remembrance Day, which is celebrated on November 11th every year in the United Kingdom, when it is sold by volunteers or otherwise given out to raise funds for the Royal British Legion as part of their Poppy Appeal. For years now, British football clubs (mostly in the English leagues) wear Poppy patches on their shirts during their games in late October and early November, after which the matchworn shirts are auctioned off with all proceedings going towards the RBL. Because most clubs wear the Poppies for just a single match each season, these shirts are exceedingly rare and hence incredibly costly, with Premier League tops often changing ownership for hundreds upon hundreds of Pounds. Although the Premier League officially introduced the Poppy in 2012, they appeared at specific clubs before that year already, and were a bit more commonplace in the EFL, which itself runs communal and separate auctions for the matchworn shirts. EFL Clubs are required to wear Poppies on either their shirts or black armbands, and typically raise between 60 and 100 Pounds per shirt.

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(Picture courtesy of Hereford FC)

At National League level and below, Poppies are not compulsory but still appear from time to time, as with Hereford United this season; the club received permission from the RBL to position a Poppy (albeit not the same styling of Poppy as the League clubs) on its shirts for three separate home matches;

  • v. Altrincham, November 3rd 2018, 1-1
  • v. FC United of Manchester, November 10th 2018, 1-3
  • v. Southport, November 13th 2018, 0-3

Not the best run of form while wearing the Poppy shirts this season for Hereford, then. The club did, however, perform amazingly with the auctions, with 17 of its Poppy shirts going under the hammer on eBay; all together they generated just shy of a thousand Pounds for the RBL, which was added to the 747 Pounds that were yielded by a bucket collection ahead of the game versus Altrincham to add to the total of over 10 thousand Pounds having been raised since the club were founded. Hereford kindly offered for the shirts to be signed upon request, but when we won our shirt and asked for it to be autographed, we never received a reply and got the shirt mailed over without a signature. A small, sour note in an otherwise wonderful experience of donating to charity and getting a hold of a very special shirt in the process.

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We say very special because of who it was worn by; James Roberts, striking ace, prolific goalscorer, and focal point of some of the pictures you’ve seen earlier on in this article.

Born in Stoke Mandeville (Buckinghamshire, not to be confused with Stoke-on-Trent of Stoke City fame) in 1996, James Anthony Roberts came through the youth ranks of Wycombe Wanderers to sign his first professional contract further west with Oxford United. Across four seasons spent with the U’s, Roberts amassed 30 league matches and three goals, with no less than six loans interspersed throughout the length of his contract; twice to Oxford City, and once to Chester City, Barnet, Stalybridge Celtic, and Guiseley each, where he totalled 59 league matches and 7 goals. Despite the experience he was accumulating, Oxford United decided not to renew his contract ahead of the 2018/2019 season, leaving Roberts without a club.

Halesowen Town FC, of the Southern League Premier Division, came knocking over the summer and managed to sign Roberts on an amateur contract; a bit of an oversight by the club, as Roberts quickly established himself as leading goalscorer, netting no less than 8 times across 14 league and cup matches. Clearly playing in a league far below his standards, Halesowen were keen to tie their leading man up on a contract that would prevent him from being signed for free by a different team, but Roberts held off until Hereford showed interest in him in October 2018; terms were quickly agreed and the Bulls had their new man.

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Seeing as Hereford operate a traditional numbering scheme wherein no fixed squad numbers exist, players are prone to playing with different numbers on their back throughout the season, depending on whether they are in the starting lineup or subbed into the match, and in which position they play. Across the three Poppy matches v. Altrincham, FC United, and Southport, Roberts was the starting striker of choice and thus lined up in the number 9 shirt on all three occasions. What’s more, he scored both of the Hereford goals across those three matches.

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(Picture courtesy of Bulls News)

Hardly a surprise for him to be named Man of the Match versus Altrincham then (playing for 87 minutes before being subbed for Harry White), with Roberts earning himself a snazzy bottle of spirits. Note the thread of fabric rising up from behind his left shoulder here, as it will come into play later.

His performances against Altrincham and FC United allowed Roberts to show flashes of brilliance early into his Hereford career; he has since racked up thirteen league appearances in total, with five goals to his name (after Altrincham and FC United, he scored versus Alfreton Town, and Kidderminster on two separate).

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The wayward thread of polyester seen in Robert’s Man of the Match picture shows up on the back of the shirt here, where it arises from the stitching of the internal collar panel. Below the seam, the logo of club sponsors Montgomery Water appears; responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of brands such as AquaVit and Celtic Spring, they are the club’s principal hydration partner.

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The chest sponsor, however, is a little more eye-catching; new for this season and taking over from Jewson are Central Roofing, who have one of the nicest/boldest sponsors we’ve seen on the Club 25 site in recent times; nine navy squares outlined in red and a single red square outlined in navy (with three navy blocks inside itself) make up what is most definitely a stylish representation of a roof (not a huge surprise given Central Roofing’s business).

The logo also evokes flashbacks of many hours spent playing the old Space Invaders video game, although that may just be us and thus your mileage may vary on this; must be the collection of abstract shapes in a predefined pattern that does it. All joking aside, the sponsor looks pleasing even if it does interrupt the white and grey hoops; it also has significant wear and tear to it, however, which is down to the fact it has been worn and washed at least three times (and even then, it may have been worn in earlier matches before the Poppy was applied).

That, however, is part and parcel of matchworn shirts so we mustn’t complain. In fact, we’ll just add bonus points to the score as Central Roofing is based in Hereford itself! Nothing like having a local company sponsor the city’s team!

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We referred to last week’s Ross County article earlier, and it was for good reason; both that shirt and this Hereford top are made by Macron, and, interestingly enough, share the exact same style of collar. Where Ross County’s was navy and red, this one is in black and white, albeit with a different sizing sticker on the inside (which has washed off completely); this might possibly be because of the fact that Ross County’s shirt was bespoke to that club and presumably handled by a different Macron office.

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A final sponsor appears on the left sleeve in the form of Magna Electronics, who are a specialist manufacturer of electronic assemblies based in Hereford, just like Central Roofing.

The right sleeve is reserved for the league patch of the Vanarama National League, as is standard across the fifth and sixth tiers of English football. Previously sponsored by companies such as Gola (look up their amazing Huddersfield Town shirts), Vauxhall, Nationwide, and Skrill, the top levels of non-league football have been named after Vanarama since 2014/2015, with the National League monniker replacing the ‘Conference’ title since 2015/2016. Vanarama are a van leasing company rather than a betting company like the title sponsor of the EFL, and thus get a thumbs-up from us (see what we did there?). Of note is that a different patch will appear next season, as Motorama, the brand under which Vanarama falls, will become title sponsor (until 2021/2022).

Macron’s cheering stick figures also appear, although they look particularly ragged on this occasion as a result of the shirt’s battle damage; this duo of figures is stickered on rather than sublimated like they were on Ross County’s shirt.

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(Picture courtesy of Bulls News)

We’ll end today’s article on a picture of James Roberts wearing Hereford’s away shirt, a fully yellow outfit making use of Macron’s Tabit template, whilst in possession of the ball versus AFC Telford United. Of course, it is always preferable for a club to wear its home colours whenever possible, but given that quite a few National League North teams have home kits that are at least partially white, the yellow away top is guaranteed more than a few outings.

All in all, Hereford United are an interesting case; a phoenix club that started from zero, rose through the ranks of non-league football with three back-to-back promotions, and are now facing their first ever dip in form as they find themselves in the lower half of the National League North table. James Roberts too is an interesting player; a goalgetter from the ground up, a promising start at Oxford saw him drop down to Halesowen Town before fighting his way back up to Hereford, with whom he now seeks to establish a firm footing in the National League.

Finally, the Poppy on this shirt ensures its special status, as well as its value and desirability to Hereford fans and collectors alike; two goals having been scored in this top just adds to the fun in that regard. However, as Poppy shirts often fall into respectful hands, don’t expect to see many of these Hereford specimens on the open market any time soon; rather, keep an eye out for next year’s Royal Legion auction where the Bulls will continue their tradition of supporting veterans. As this design of shirt will be retained for 2019/2020 (although possibly with a different configuration of sponsors), you might just be able to get your very own copy of this shirt we’ve taken a closer look at.

If you don’t care about players having scuffed your shirt or Poppies being printed on, you can get your very own player-spec top from the club’s online shop. Your purchase will help support Hereford FC in building a sustainable, financially responsible future for football in the city. As for Club 25, be sure to check back next week as we’ll be covering another Poppy shirt!

We are indebted to Bulls News for allowing Club 25 to post a selection of match photos in this article.

We would like to thank you for taking the time to read our article, which is just the latest but far from the last we will add to the site. If you do feel so inclined, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, maybe send us tips on how to do better via the Contact Us section, and be sure to check out the somewhat cluttered Shirt Archive, which we hope to update and streamline in the very near future. Club 25 strives to  publish one article every week, so be sure to check back soon for a new shirt to be added to the site!

 

 

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