Red rag to the Bulls
It appears I’m not the most popular Torquay United blogger in Hereford at the moment. Before the start of the season I predicted that Hereford would be returning to the Conference after this season. It seems the message has reached Herefordshire as some Bulls fans have been discussing it on one of the forums, and unsurprisingly they aren’t happy, especially that I said they are looking like a very small club for this level.
So, time to defend myself. First and foremost, by predicting a full table, I inevitably have to predict 2 teams will get relegated, though no feedback as yet from Macclesfield fans (although I’m sure they’re used to it – likewise, as a Torquay fan, I’m used to outsiders unfairly predicting us to struggle, such as FourFourTwo this year). I initially came up with the predictions for my own private predictions league, which is largely based on predicting the tables for the Premier League, Football League and Conference – I decided to make an article out of it. Hence why, as some Cheltenham fans pointed out, they are quite safe predictions. It’s not an attempt to be spot on – it’s predicting roughly where teams will finish, so I think Hereford will be near the bottom, though not necessarily going down, and the same goes for the other teams I’ve predicted towards the bottom.
Secondly, as for Hereford’s size, a look at the average attendance figures from this year (admittedly at a very early stage in the season) will explain a lot, as the two clubs with the lowest average attendances are Hereford and Macclesfield – the two teams I have predicted to be relegated. Last year, Macclesfield are indeed still bottom of the pile, while Hereford are still only 20th. 6 Conference clubs at higher average attendances than Hereford, putting them outside the top 92 clubs in the English system.
Of course, I am well aware that my own club were 19th in that list, so I’m not saying that out of spite or snobbery. However, we are inside the 92 (only 4 Conference clubs had a higher average attendance than Torquay), and of course we made the play-off final. I haven’t forgotten that it is only 3 years since Hereford were promoted to League One. But since then, the Bulls have finished 24th, 16th and 21st. The slide seems reminiscent of our own slide after we were promoted to League One in 2004 – after relegation the following year, we lasted just two season before being relegated to the Conference, as the players that won us promotion gradually deserted us or aged. Take into account that Jamie Pitman is an unproven quantity as manager, that there are now some clubs down here with quite big followings or plenty of cash, and that they aren’t the wealthiest club in the league, and you have a club that looks more like relegation fodder than pushing for a play-off spot.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that I’m not the only one to predict Hereford going down – as part of their comprehensive preview of this season, fellow League Two bloggers Maxi Hobbs (Cheltenham) and Danny Brothers (Northampton) also placed them 23rd, while Ben Mayhew (also Torquay) put them a little higher in 20th. So the consensus seems to suggest at least a season of struggle for Hereford, if not relegation.
And finally, while I don’t want to sound smug at all (although I probably do), a look at the current table shows 3 defeats in 3 for the Bulls, with no goals scored and 8 conceded, leaving them even lower than I predicted – or, to put it another way, they are 24th, bottom, 92nd of the 92, propping up the Football League, and in the relegation zone. I know it’s early days yet (and the smash-and-grab against Brentford in the League Cup aside) but I’d like to think that shows I’ve not just plucked my predictions out of thin air.
I do apologise to Hereford fans if they aren’t happy with this, and I wish you all the best this season, but unfortunately I can’t please everyone. As I said, I’ve got nothing against Hereford United as a club and enjoy visiting Edgar Street. I’m just being honest – I fear for you guys. And it’s because we’ve been here before.
That said, Argyle are teetering on the brink, so you might get away with it…