The FA Cup's greatest upset: Hereford vs Newcastle, told by Ronnie Radford, John Motson and Malcolm Macdonald

Hereford Newcastle

“Oh what a goal! Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford! And the crowd are on the pitch. What a tremendous shot by Ronnie Radford”
John Motson, Match of the Day, 5 February 1972

Before their financial meltdown, Hereford ran out to the theme from Rocky. It was perfect. Sylvester Stallone’s pugilist is, after all, the patron saint of fictional underdogs, so to hear it ring around a venue like Edgar Street was particularly apt.

Memories of the day there that Hereford United of the Southern League beat First Division heavyweights Newcastle United still rightly coarse through the club’s veins. Those present – and like all great sporting moments, it seems everyone was there – will tell you with nostalgic glee of fans climbing trees, pylons and church steeples to get a view of the action. Club officials will tell you they could have sold their 15,000 capacity three or four times over.

Even those not around when sideburns and parkas were en vogue will empathise with the supporters’ pitch-invading glee, and will have marvelled at the quality of Ronnie Radford’s equaliser as it’s repeated every year to remind us all that, whoever you support, this year maybe, just maybe. This is the story of the FA Cup’s greatest-ever giant-killing, told by the protagonists...

The club

COLIN ADDISON, THE PLAYER-MANAGER I came to Hereford in the October of that season. It was quite a drop for me, though, as I was playing at Sheffield United who had started the season great and were second in the old First Division. I was only 31, but wasn’t starting regularly and everyone knew I was into my coaching as I was doing my badges. One day the chairman called me to say there was this managerial opportunity at Hereford and did I want to consider it? I thought I’d take a look. I knew a few of the players there.

RICKY GEORGE, STRIKER AND MATCH WINNER I had played for Spurs, Watford, and Bournemouth before a disastrous season at Hastings. I then went to Barnet where I had three seasons. The great John Charles was manager at Edgar Street, and in March 1971 came in with a £300 bid. I wasn’t going to move up there and it was a long way from my north London home but it was decent club, seen by many as the biggest non-league outfit in the south of England.

DAVID KEYTE, THE FAN I was 17 at the time and fanatical about the club. Yes, we were non-league but we got around four or five thousand for games, and 8,000 for local derbies against the likes of Worcester.

ADDISON I was full-time while the guys were part-time but I immediately enjoyed it. John Charles had gone, and with all respect to the big man, he was the past. He’d had his time at the club and the players let me get on with things.

RONNIE RADFORD, MIDFIELDER AND SCORER OF EQUALISER Colin came in and made a huge difference. He was a very good player – the best signing Hereford ever made.

The cup run

ADDISON A month after I arrived we had a qualifying round against Cheltenham. We beat them 3-0 and got Kings Lynn in the First Round Proper, a game in which I nearly cost us. In the last minute at 0-0, they had a corner and I lost my man. He got across me and powered it towards goal from 10 yards. I could see it going in the corner but my keeper Fred Potter made a fantastic one-handed save to keep us in the cup. He got up and quite rightly had a go at me. Christ, he screamed at me. Luckily we won the replay.

KEYTE The Second Round was against Northampton and this time two replays were needed. The second was at The Hawthorns and I remember our bus breaking down and missing the first 10 minutes. By then Northampton were already one up and it stayed that way until the very end. We decided to skip out and head to the bus. We heard a big cheer as we won a corner so we found a view and from it Ken Mallender equalised. We ran back and got back in the Hereford end to watch us win in extra time. We knew the draw and so travelled home excitedly thinking of Newcastle and superstars like Malcolm Macdonald and Bobby Moncur in the Third Round.

St James' Park

GEORGE The players called our chairman, Frank Miles, into the dressing room at Edgar Street before we left for Newcastle. “What sort of a bonus are we on?”

“I’ll give you £50 a man to get a result.”

“What? We’re playing Newcastle away, what are you talking about?”

[Tony Gough] said: “We're going to get at least 30,000 people there and win, lose or draw we want more.” He agreed to £100 a man.

KEYTE There was a special train up to the North East and we took a good 8,000 up; great support. St James’ Park was having a new stand built, but even so there were 39,000 in the ground and our lot were in great voice.

RADFORD Our striker Brian Owen scored a belter – it got stuck in the stanchion – after 17 seconds, and despite Newcastle getting two goals before half-time, Colin [Addison] scored another wonder goal from 30 yards and we had a deserved draw.

St James' Park

MALCOLM 'SUPERMAC' MACDONALD, NEWCASTLE'S SOON-TO-BE ENGLAND STRIKER It was a truly awful winter, wet and cold, and that replay just kept getting postponed. We drove down and stayed in Worcester to play the next night, the game was off, but we stayed there as we had a game at Southampton. We played that and then travelled back to Newcastle to go back down for another midweek replay. We got into the Worcester hotel to hear it had again been called off.

RADFORD We had our jobs – I was a carpenter – and so the postponements didn’t bother us. We got on with our lives. It must have had an effect on them, though.

MACDONALD We had a game at Derby, played that, went home, then travelled down for another crack at it but only had an overnight bag. It was again off but we were told we’d stay and try again the next day. We all took ourselves off to a Cecil Gee shop in Worcester to stock up on posh socks, pants and shirts just to keep us going.

ADDISON I asked the Newcastle manager, Joe Harvey, over to mine one afternoon. He walked in and I said: “Tea or coffee, Joe?” He looked at me and said: “You haven’t got a whisky have you, Colin?”

MACDONALD We would try to relax. We found a terrific pub in Worcester straight out of the 14th Century. It was called the Dirty Duck. We’d get in there and play cribbage just to while the hours away.

JOHN MOTSON, THE COMMENTATOR I had covered the original match for BBC radio but was also doing a bit of TV on a trial basis to see if I was up to it. The game was eventually played on Fourth Round Saturday and the likes of David Coleman and Barry Davies would be at those, so I got sent to Edgar Street as an afterthought for what the chiefs presumed would be a routine away win.

GEORGE I had got to know and become friends with Motty [Motson] from his days on the Barnet Press, and so we drove to Hereford the night before the game. He was new to TV and I think he was a bit nervous. We arrived in Hereford on the Friday night, and quite late Motty and I stopped in our hotel’s snug bar with another group of journalists. Among them was Jackie Milburn, the Newcastle legend now covering the game for the Geordie press. We walked in and Motty introduced me to Milburn who said, quite pleasantly: “It’s lads like you that made me give up football management.”

“Why’s that Jackie?” I asked.

“Why’s that? It’s the night before the match son. You should be in your bed.”

 “I'm only sub, Mr. Milburn,” I stupidly replied.

“Only sub! You might have to come on and score the winning goal, lad.”

The match

KEYTE My dad was chief of police, and he had a meeting with the club’s chairman and Colin Addison. The game had sold out a week before but the chairman was hoping and wondering if he could squeeze more in. My dad offered to turn a blind eye saying: “You haven’t heard me say it but go ahead and print some more tickets. Just not too many.”

GRENVILLE SMITH, THE POLICEMAN We were briefed that this was going to be a massive occasion and told that there’d be more fans than tickets. They were in trees, on the pylons. Health and safety today wouldn’t allow it today but back then there was nothing we could do.

MACDONALD I think it was a case of us playing the game come hell or high water. The pitch was an absolute quagmire!

GEORGE Malcolm [Macdonald] had been in the papers boasting that he’d better Ted McDougall’s nine goals in an FA Cup tie, and I remember Colin putting the clipping on our dressing room wall.

KEYTE Macdonald had become a bit of a pantomime villain and I have since talked to a couple of our players who joked that had he got three or four goals, there was no way he was going to finish the game!

MACDONALD I had a column in The Sun and so was stitched up by the Daily Mirror. They were out to get me because of my Sun connections. They ran that I’d said I’d do the McDougall record, and of course I never said anything like that. It was annoying and made me look like a bit of an idiot.

RADFORD Having played so well at St James’ we couldn’t wait for the game to get started. We were itching to get going. We knew the reward for winning would be West Ham at home in the next round, and so the thought of taking on Ron Greenwood’s men and players such as Geoff Hurst was even more of an incentive to do well. The pitch was tough, though, especially in the centre of midfield.

ADDISON Let’s just say the pitch was a bit tacky.

GEORGE I was sitting watching from the dugout and kept thinking, ‘We’re matching them’.

ADDISON They had the quality but we were holding our own and went in at half-time 0-0. “Come on lads, keep working, keep believing, keep battling,” I said. 

MACDONALD There was no doubting our motivation and we came out for the second half, thoroughly determined to get the result. We hit the woodwork and I remember their keeper being incredible and stopping everything. He was like something out of a 1950s Boys' Own comic.

GEORGE It was still 0-0 going into the last 10 minutes and I thought, "There’s no way Colin is bringing me on". There just wasn’t a weak link.

MACDONALD Seven minutes from time, Viv Busby has knocked a ball in, a great cross and I got onto it at the far post. Bang, it’s in. You could feel the relief among us. Finally we’ve scored, finally this bloody game is going to get put to bed and we can go bloody home.

RADFORD I was angry. Furious. As soon as they scored, I was like, “Oh sh*t”. We’d worked so hard and I was angry. I started to shout at all my team-mates to keep going. “Come on, don’t give up, we’ve come this far.” I was enjoying the cup run too much to go out now.

GEORGE Colin called me straight on for Roger Griffiths, who had played nearly the whole game with what we later found out was a broken leg. There were no high fives in those days, and he trudged off on the other side of the pitch as I ran on. But he did shout over, “Go on Ricky son, get at ’em mate!” I thought: I’ve got 10 minutes to do something and I won’t get another chance, so why not just run my legs off?

MACDONALD We were telling each other to not do anything silly when the ball broke in the midfield to this gangly, slightly awkward-looking guy who on the slippery mud in the centre circle reminded me of a baby giraffe.

RADFORD Funnily enough, when a sub was usually made, Ricky would come on for me. It must have crossed Colin’s mind to do just that and throw on an attacker. Instead, though, Roger had to go off so I stayed on. Ricky typified our spirit and chased down a lost cause, the ball broke to me and I managed a one-two with Brian Owen.

GEORGE I was screaming: “Don’t shoot. Keep possession.”

ADDISON Both myself and Ronnie were going for it. He can see me and he says something along the lines of – in his Yorkshire accent – “Leave it t’me lad, get out t’way.”

RADFORD It felt good when it left my foot. Do they call it the sweet spot? It was like hitting a great golf shot and as soon as it left my foot I knew it had a chance. It might have gone in the car park but it didn’t.

MACDONALD I had the best view in the house. I was right behind it and as soon as he struck it in my head I’m shouting to Willie McFaul: “Don’t bother pal, you're not stopping that.”

MOTSON It just kept going. It was such an exciting moment and I just went with it, screaming. I think in the excitement my voice went up a few octaves.

SMITH I was policing at the side of the pitch and had a great view of it. Now, I was a massive fan too and when it flew in I was off onto the pitch, leading the pitch invasion. I quickly remembered what I was supposed to be doing and tried to clear the mayhem I had started.

KEYTE I was all over the terrace. I didn’t make it onto the pitch as I was caught up in this unstoppable current on the terrace.

RADFORD My missus had the kids there. My son was sitting behind my wife and asked her something. She turned round to talk to him and as she is, I’ve hit it. There’s a huge roar and everyone jumps up. She jumps up and joins in cheering asking, “Who scored?”

“It was your Ron!”

She missed my goal.

Extra time

ADDISON Extra-time and I’m telling the guys to keep going. I looked at their players and genuinely thought, this is our day.

RADFORD Colin inspired us with his words. Even today, whenever he talks to you it’s like a team talk.

MACDONALD Yes, we were still hopeful of winning but I must admit it crossed my mind – after yet another incredible goal – are we up against something stronger here?

GEORGE Towards the end of the first period of extra-time the ball broke in their box and I was onto it. Bobby Moncur was a bit leggy and didn’t get to me, so I just hit it. I expected McFaul to get maybe palm it away but he didn’t and in it went. Suddenly I’m just mobbed by young fans intent on nothing but jubilation. What a moment.

SMITH I was on again, this time I totally lose it and my hat is in the air and I’m going crazy! I had to have a word with myself and say, “Come on, back you get.” But seriously, who was going to listen to me? At the final whistle, I didn’t even bother. I just joined in.

ADDISON They put us under the inevitable pressure but we held on. Wow. Joe Harvey was great and shook my hand but he must have been hurting. I went into our dressing room and I had a bit of a cry. I had played at Arsenal and Forest among others but this was momentous.

MACDONALD We got off quickly and it was a very sombre drive home. Joe [Harvey], bless him, had to stop the bus to be sick. He’d been involved when the club years before had been beaten by Bedford Town and knew what we were driving back to.

MOTSON The game was bumped up to be top of the bill on Match of the Day, and the bosses decided I could be trusted with a major match after that. I suppose I did take confidence from that day. It became the story of the season and it happened under my watch so yes, I did take confidence in the fact that I hadn’t cocked the whole thing up. I now watch Ronnie’s goal and think, please don’t hit the bar because the truth is, without his strike, I may never have had a career. The BBC gave me a three-year contract on the back of it.

GEORGE Myself, Billy Meadows and Motty drove back to north London and took fish and chips to Billy’s place. There we sat, cross-legged on the carpet, watching Match of the Day. Motty had his big moment as a commentator and Billy and I had ours. I had never seen myself score a goal before. It was so exciting.

RADFORD I went back home with the wife and watched TV thinking how stupid I looked when I ran. My phone didn’t stop ringing for days but I didn’t mind. Having said that, life went on. That goal is the first thing people want to talk about and that’s fine. It’s a special moment. I watch it a lot – it’s on a lot! – and I do get emotional every time.

MACDONALD The following Saturday we went to Old Trafford. We walk on to check the pitch and it starts. All the fans are chanting “Hereford, Hereford”. It was non-stop. We beat them, silenced the place and that was the Hereford defeat put to bed. Sort of.

KEYTE I was a kid but managed a few pints that night. A good few years later – having sold a few businesses – I became the chairman.

GEORGE Somebody asked me recently, do I get bored of talking about it? I was genuinely insulted. How awful would it be to get bored of it? Every schoolboy dreams of doing what we did that day, and so what an insult to ever grow tired of it.

MOTSON I’m biased because I was involved, but I have always described it as the biggest ever cup shock. The club has called me their 13th man and I do still have a huge affiliation with the place.

ADDISON West Ham came to us next and Christ, we should have won. We had the chances but we drew 0-0 and so it was back to Upton Park and 42,000. Geoff Hurst got himself a less famous hat-trick and we got beat 3-1. The chairman wasn’t too fussed and we got the lads that £100 bonus again. We got elected to the Football League that summer which was also great, but that cup run and those games against Newcastle are special. Some Newcastle people have since said that the pitch was the key, that it was a leveller. I take exception to that. We matched them at their place and might have won it; there was nothing wrong with that pitch I can tell you. It’ll never happen again. My guys were very part-time. I didn’t have them as a group once, other than on matchdays. We’re all still great mates and I’ll never tire of thinking or talking about any of them.

This feature originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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Leo Moynihan

Leo Moynihan has been a freelance football writer and author for over 20 years. As well as contributing to FourFourTwo for all of that time, his words have also appeared in The Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, Esquire, FHM and the Radio Times. He has written a number of books on football, including ghost projects with the likes of David Beckham and Andrew Cole, while his last two books, The Three Kings and Thou Shall Not Pass have both been recognised by the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year awards.