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Hereford

Bulls squad for 2006/07 season
The United squad for League Two

Back in the big time!

By Sports Editor, Trevor Owens
The time for talking is almost over; now United have to deliver the goods as they set out on the adventure that is their League Two campaign.

There are doubtless some Bulls' fans who would have preferred a home match with which to start; Stockport County, away, is not necessarily the sort of fixture to set the pulse racing, but for every United supporter who thinks this way, there are ten more who will tell you it is better than an opening day at St Albans City or Gravesend and Northfleet.

If they are being honest, most United fans enjoyed the club's time in the Conference, but United were in danger of outstaying their welcome; nine years after that fateful game against Brighton and Hove Albion at Edgar Street, the time had come to leave.

In short, to miss out in the play-offs twice could have been dismissed as unfortunate; to have missed out a third time might have been deemed downright careless.

There is no doubt that Hereford will return to the Football League a far leaner, more efficient operation than they were when they left it.

There has been plenty of pain along the way; few will really ever know just how close the club came to going out of business, but Graham Turner has admitted that an FA Cup fourth qualifying round win at Dover Athletic in 2001 went a long way towards easing the immediate pressure.

Tamika Mkandawire
Tamika Mkandawire: key figure in Bulls' defence

Victory at Dover brought a home tie against Wrexham and the visit of the BBC cameras to Edgar Street; it is no exaggeration to say that Gavin Williams' strike at The Crabble was critical to the longer term health of the club.

One thing is for certain; United supporters will head into League Two with no shortage of confidence in their team's ability to make a lasting impression on the division, but there is an argument that says that expectation levels will need to be tempered to some degree.

The former Cheltenham Town Manager, Steve Cotterill once told me that the major difference between the Conference and League Two was the consistently better standard of the opposition; in a one-off Cup match a Conference side might well beat a League Two club, but in 46 league matches, the standard of opposition is far higher across the board than it is in non-league football's top tier.

United fans are going to have to get used to losing matches again; hopefully, not too many of them, but there is no doubt that it will be tougher than in past seasons.

On top of this, the Bulls have a largely new look squad; this may also be a factor as the team will need some time to bed in.

The spine of the side is largely unchanged; Wayne Brown is likely to start in goal with the central defensive pairing of Tamika Mkandawire and Dean Beckwith favourites to carry on from where they left off last season.

This is especially true as their fellow centre back, Phil Gulliver is short of match practice, not least because he has spent much of the past recent week ploughing a lonely furrow between Edgar Street and Northamptonshire while details of his move to United were finalised.

Midfield is the area on which many fans have commented; the need, perhaps, for an older, more experienced head to drive on those younger players around him.   

One might yet appear, but in the current absence of such a player, maybe Andy Ferrell and Rob Purdie will get the opportunity to stake a claim?

Andy Williams
Andy Williams: looking for more goals

Purdie has been named club captain, so this could be a chance for him to show his leadership qualities in what is a key area of the field; Ferrell will always battle away in there, and that attitude is likely to be critical as United establish a foot hold in the division.

Up front, it could be any two from four; Tim Sills is likely to start for his physical presence as well as his eye for goal; Hereford's strikers are likely to come up against a pair of giant central defenders in the majority of their games this season.

As for who starts alongside him, Stuart Fleetwood has made a strong case, although Andy Williams and Andy Connell will both feel they should also be in the mix; maybe Williams will start on the right hand side?

Decisions, then, for Graham Turner and John Trewick, although the United Manager will no doubt wryly reflect that it's a measure of the job he has done at Edgar Street that at least he now has to make such choices, rather than, as so often in those dark days in the Conference, the side essentially picking itself.

On thing is for sure, it is going to be a very interesting ride this season; there are bound to be ups and downs and the fans that served United so well in the play-off final at Leicester will have their part to play.

Here's hoping they get right behind the side throughout and that we all have plenty to shout about between now and next May.

last updated: 02/08/06
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