Sport Saturday, December 26th Words by: Adam Knight, pictures by: Mark Bowen

More Hereford than Hereford: Why you should support Westfields FC in the Boxing Day derby

Sport Saturday, December 26th

More Hereford than Hereford: Why you should support Westfields FC in the Boxing Day derby


“He’s just flown in from Lapland.”

This is Westfields’ boss Sean Edwards explaining the late appearance at training of defender Phil Glover.

It’s December 23rd and ‘Fields are four days away from arguably the biggest game of their season, a Boxing Day derby against Hereford FC. Edgar Street is already an all-ticket sell-out.

Glover runs laps around the Hereford Sixth Form astroturf as his team-mates stretch. It turns out Edward’s words were without irony.

“He just got in to the airport today – and he’s come straight here. That’s why he looks a bit like Santa.”


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The numbers at training seem a little light given the importance of the weekend’s fixture. Westfields – who have twice come within a game of promotion in the last five years – sit 18th in the 22-team Midlands Alliance.

Their opponents have not dropped points since the sides drew 0-0 on the last day of August, winning 23 games straight - a run that is among the best in the country, at any level. Unsurprisingly then, the phoenix club are top of the table.

This Wednesday only ten of Westfields first team are training.

The mood is light – players rib former-Hereford winger Sam Gwynne that he has only done his hair tonight because our photographer is around – but it is focussed, and the intensity builds quickly as the drills begin.


"Our players get £15 a game - Hereford can pay John Mills £500."

Andy Beavan, who has worked with both West Brom and Cheltenham Town, warms the players up, leading them through one-touch passing drills as Edwards watches on.

They had 15 on Monday, Edwards tells me. And the last time he saw this look in his squad’s eyes he got on the bus that Saturday morning knowing they would win.

They did, turning over then-league leaders Heaton Town 3-1.

“We had to change our training night this week because of Christmas - not all the squad could get out of work to make the session,” Edwards says.

“I’ll have the other lads in tomorrow morning, and Phil, to do some fitness drills."

And this where the difference lies between the two Hereford clubs.

Westfields players are paid travelling expenses, and about enough cash to shout a couple of beers after the games.

Although traditionally they draw some players from Worcester and Gloucester, the core of the squad are local lads.

They have day jobs at gyms and cleaning companies, and they have other commitments.

“You might get a call before training from one of the lads saying his granny’s ill and he can’t make it,” Edwards jokes. “But there’s only so much you can do.

“Even this week you’re asking amateur lads on 15 quid to restrict what they do at Christmas.

“You’ll have certain lads whose Christmas will be about Boxing Day, and you’ll have others who are a bit blasé.”

You get the sense from Edward’s smile that “restrict what they do at Christmas” means asking twenty-something footballers not to have a few too many sherries, or jaegerbombs, in the days leading up to the big game.

But behind the smile, there is a real issue.

Year after year Edwards has got the most out his squads, talented groups of local players who could, and maybe should have won promotion. Two seasons ago he led Fields on a similar run to Hereford, going 28 games unbeaten in the second half of the season.

But the first team is, to all intents and purposes, a fiercely amateur team.

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“I have gone to other sides and it wasn’t the same,” said Craig Jones, who with 14 goals already this term is the arguably the most likely to hand Westfields the win, should it come, this afternoon.

“I don’t know if it’s because we’re all local lads, but there is that bond between us, and there always has been. It’s why I’ve stayed at Westfields.

“Lads who travel away to play for a team finish the game, get in their car and go home. They don’t have that bond.

“It’s a shame we haven’t done what we want to do, and get out of this league – but I’d rather stay here and fight for a promotion because it means more.

“At the end of the day, what do you play sport for?”

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For all the honour and passion and lively bus trips amateur spirit brings, it does have its limitations.

Westfields have a small squad, which this season has been hit by injuries.

Suddenly, and for the first time in recent memory, they find themselves looking up in the table, and go into this afternoon as underdogs - a tag the manager is unaccustomed to when it comes to most local games, but one he says he is happy to embrace.

“We can win this,” Edwards said, in a tone more serious than he had taken at any other point of the interview. “Knowing how the boys are, watching them at training this week – player for player I’m confident.”

With Fields having recorded just one win in their last four, at first glance that confidence may seem misplaced.

But there are real reasons behind Edwards’ self-assurance.

Firstly, although Hereford are the class team of the division, their cross-town rivals have caused them problems in both times the sides have met this year.

The first ended in a 0-0 draw while the second, a cup game in October in which Edwards describes the team he fielded as ‘raggedy’, saw Westfields take an early lead.

Denied a strong penalty appeal before the break, they then shipped a soft goal, were reduced to nine men and slipped to a 4-1 defeat as their pressing tactic took its toll on their legs late in the game.

But the seeds of doubt were sown in that first half.

“It could’ve gone another way,” Jones. “Looking at them, you could tell they hadn’t been in that position this year.”
Edwards’ second reason for optimism is a newly-inked signing that he believes holds the key to breaking down Hereford’s defence.

“He signed today but I’m keeping his name quiet as I’d rather they have to do their homework at the last minute,” said Edwards, speaking on the 23rd of December like a man to whom Christmas had quite literally come early.

“I’ve been tracking him all season. He’s a right wing and he addresses one area we needed: pace.

“He’s played against Hereford before and caused them all sorts of problems.”



If pace is one area Westfields have been lacking this year, goalkeeping and healthy bodies are two others.

Even this week, with several long-term absentees having recently returned from the physio’s room and Edward’s appearing to have a full complement to pick from, he was dealt another cruel blow.

A scan on Matt Gwynne’s hand revealed two broken bones, an injury the keeper had played through, but which doctors have now advised him to rest for at least a month.

“It’s a massive blow for us,” Edwards said.

“Going in to the season I really believed we’d a have a big say in what happens in this league. This squad was a good as I’ve had, but four or five injuries knocked us sideways.

“If we lose a player like Aidan Thomas for example, you aren’t going to find that quality unless you go out of the county and pay big money. And we’re not going to do that.”


Across town, things are a little different.

John Mills hit 57 goals last year in the Southern League Division One last year, a league above the Midlands Alliance. He is almost halfway there this season, on 25. Players like that don’t come cheap.

Edwards said: “We play our players 15 quid whereas Hereford can pay John Mills 500.

“That’s our entire budget on one of their players.

“No matter how much pressure they are under in a game, they know that if they get a chance, he’s probably going to stick it away. And if he gets injured they can just bring in someone from somewhere else.

“I’d imagine you could make a damn good living playing at Hereford at the moment.

“They are unique. Players are not signing with them to play in the Midlands Alliance, they’re signing to play with Hereford. They are looking a year or two down the road.

“If you can afford to do it, good luck to them.”

Dylan Bonella and Pablo Haysham – who has seven goals on the season – also made the step down from the Southern Leagues to play for Peter Beadle’s side, while Australian Jimmy Oates was picked up when the former Manly FC defender was studying at Harpbury College.

Under Beadle they have been moulded in to a well-oiled machine, proving able to both win ugly on poor surfaces, like last week against at Lye Town, and run up the score against poor opposition, averaging five goals a game since November.

“I’ve always been a Hereford fan. I followed them through thick and thin as a lad. I was there for four years as an apprentice,” Edwards said.

“It’s just funny that when they reformed, they reformed in our league.

“I thought it would have a positive effect, that it would raise the profile, but actually it’s gone the other way.
“Our lads have worried more about those games than they have about getting ready for the other games. I take responsibility for that, but it’s probably cost us.”



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There may be good reason to worry ahead of today’s game. As well as Mills and Bonnella and Haysham, waiting for them at Edgar Street will be some 2,000 Hereford fans in a packed-out Meadow End.

The October cup game, also at Edgar Street, was not short of atmosphere, rising with the number of physical tackles being handed out by both sides.

Edwards said fans started throwing sweets at him in the technical area – “at least they could have thrown pound coins.”

“It’s going to have a bit of bite, it’s a local derby,” said Gwynne, now at Westfields but a Hereford United player from the Conference days, and a former fan favourite.

As he reaches into his car to grab his boots, his old Hereford kitbag is still clearly visible in the boot.

"One bad tackle and the fans could turn on me."

“I’m expecting a good reception,” said Gwynne, whose time at Edgar Street was dogged by injury but who was known as a tireless worker and a relentless athlete during his time at the club.

“I was a loyal servant for the club and I left it all on the field – I left on good terms.

“But it is Hereford – one bad tackle and they might turn on me.”

Jones is expecting a slightly different welcome.

The classy midfielder with an eye for long-range screamers last played for Hereford during a slightly less illustrious period for the club.

He found himself frozen out by Martin Foyle for long periods, with the then-boss promising Jones gametime and stability before cutting him loose, just after the former postman quit his job to go full-time with United.

“I’m expecting a lot of abuse – I’ve read bits this week – but that’s part of football,” he said.

“When you’re playing, you don’t hear it. It’s only when the game stops. But the fans are going to do it, they’ll try to wind up me and Gwynner and Cussy [Jamie Cuss – also ex Hereford].

“It would be great to score against them. I’m enjoying my football now more than I ever had, and I do look at them as a whole new club – I don’t know many people there now – but it is Edgar Street.”

However the game plays out, it is going to be a special day. Come 3pm, the eyes of the city will once again be focussed on that small corner of town between Widemarsh Street and Edgar Street. The Oxford Arms will be full. Sons and daughters will walk alongside their dad’s on the way to a sold-out ground.

And after the last few seasons, it’s a day Hereford’s football community wholeheartedly deserves.

Depending how the season plays out, Hereford may enjoy many more winter afternoons playing in front of a packed house.

But for Westfields it’s a rare opportunity.

Gwynne calls it his side’s FA Cup final. Jones says he’s been picturing his first touch, his first tackle all week. Edwards talks of players who 12 months ago were playing in front of a handful of fans at Bartestree or Bromyard, and now will be running out in front of 4,000.

When the first whistle goes, it may be hard for the neutral to support anyone other than team in Blue and Maroon, a team that from the outside seems more Hereford than Hereford FC.

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