Home truths and a new direction for Hereford United
Back in February 2008, writes Kevin Hurst, Shrewsbury Town manager Gary Peters was being interviewed after a 2-1 defeat to his closest derby rivals Hereford United…
Graham Turner’s Hereford were flying high on their way to promotion, but the way in which the Bulls used the loan system to achieve promotion that season was criticised:
“I’m not sure who we were playing”, said Peters. “Was it Hereford or a combination Premier League and Championship squad? Those players will go back to their clubs in the summer, so where’s the long term planning in that? We have young players who we’re developing for us, not other teams. We can then make them better and sell them to make us money. That’s the difference.”
With the likes of Theo Robinson, Toumani Diagouraga and Gary Hooper in the Hereford side who were clearly a cut above the usual League Two players, the comment coming from a defeated derby manager could be expected. Hatred towards Peters from Bulls fans after the outburst could also be understood.
So imagine their surprise when, turning the clock forward to 4th September 2011, Gary Peters is appointed Hereford’s new Director of Football, assigned to helping physio-turned-manager Jamie Pitman rejuvenate their season as they languish 23rd in League Two. The appointment has enraged some fans, but could Peters be the red mist to put the bite back into the Bulls?
Hereford’s official website gave Peters his first interview. He probably didn’t win over the hearts and minds of the Bulls faithful when he said: “I think we have got to be scared, I think the team is probably the worst team in the division, I’ve not seen a team that I think is worse…”
Though it claws deep, his thoughts seem to ring true considering the statistics. Hereford’s away form isn’t too bad, but there have been 16 league goals conceded at home so far this season – the worst record in League Two by five goals. Peters has a point.
Hereford felt it appropriate to hold a Fans Forum on Thursday last week and fans got the chance to voice their concerns to the new Director of Football within a rather hostile atmosphere. Peters spoke of his ideas for the club: “If we getting loan players in, we will try and find out if they are going to be released as they might end up making us money” and consolidating this method by saying: “When I was at Preston we made £9million, signing players following loan spells and selling them on later in their careers.”
Peters is, of course, famed for taking a young David Beckham on loan to Preston, giving Joe Hart his first starts at Shrewsbury – even predicting then that Hart would go on to bigger things – and bringing Jon Macken to Preston for a fee of £250,000 and eventually selling him to Manchester City for £5million. With credentials like these and the financial shortcomings of the Edgar Street club compared to some of their rivals in League Two, the appointment begins to make plenty of sense.
Peters even went so far as to explain his interview in 2008: “Graham (Turner) made some fantastic loan signings that season, but they weren’t adding to the future of the club. This is why Hereford came back down the next season”.
In theory, Peters was right. Hereford got promoted to League One in 2008 and were relegated straight back to League Two the following season.
The other frequently asked question concerned rumours that he was coming in to be Pitman’s eventual replacement. He answered coolly: “One of the refreshing things that made me come to the club is that there’s a young manager who is inexperienced. He needs some help, and so do the players. The board do not want to sack another manager after 10 games, like last season [Simon Davey]. Hopefully I can help.”
One David Moyes had Peters in the background as Preston’s Centre of Excellence manager. Peters will be able to help Pitman with his experience of developing youth and nurturing players. His long list of contacts within the game could be crucial to the club’s immediate future.
A battling 3-3 draw at Swindon at the weekend could be the first sign that the recruitment of Peters is a positive move. He may have been appointed against the wishes of some Hereford fans, but his straight-talking, no-nonsense style may be just what the Bulls need to rebuild.