Herefordians of a certain age will all remember where they were on 5th February 1972, when the thrice postponed replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United took place at Edgar Street in front of 14,000 expectant fans.
Disappointed fans looked on as Newcastle looked set to be the victors with just eight minutes remaining, but then Ronnie Radford’s surprise equaliser from 35 yards brought the Bulls back into the game and paved the way for Ricky George’s winning shot.
This is a giant-killing tale handed down though generations of Hereford United, and more recently Hereford FC, supporters and we all know how the story ends. So how do you make a stage show about the famous feat watchable, engaging and accessible to those with little or no interest in the beautiful game (me)?
I have to admit I was dubious. I’m not a football fan in the slightest (I struggled to watch any of the World Cup) and it’s not a secret that I’m pretty critical of biographical theatre, so The Goal had a lot to prove.
The Goal is the story of six ballboys (and girl) growing up in 1970s Hereford who get involved with the club at the beginning of the 1971-72 season. They trail the Bulls as they progress through the FA Cup, and the plot follows the subtleties and tribulations of teenage life in a rural city (anyone remember kerby and the Corona pop man?).
It’s peppered with quality one-liners, classic music, nostalgic local references and original social and sports footage projected onto the screen housed in Hereford FCs spare goal on stage. If you grew up in Hereford you’ll get the “in jokes”, if you didn’t then I’m sure you’ll recognise the characters of your childhood friends and excitement of the game. Also worth noting is the commentary re-recorded especially for the production by original pundit John Motson, who retired from TV sports commentary this year.
All six of the ball boys’ characters are from very different backgrounds and make for some interesting watching as an aside from the football history (if, like me, football really isn’t your thing). There’s Bobby from Newton Farm (James Holmes), who’s more of a follower than a leader, but has a huge heart and loves his best mate and ring leader Chris (Tom Bevan). Chris is a bit of a lad but makes up for his sometimes selfish acts by looking out for his friends, and his Mum.
Brian (Charlie Quirke) is a Cathedral School boy, with parental pressures and more than a little trouble fitting in with the Southside boys and out-of-towners Dan (Kate Powell) and Yorkie (Matthew Booth) provide an extra dimension and interesting array of emotional tensions with their backstories. Performance of the night for me was the simple Twig (Ewan Goddard), who lives in his eighth hand hand-me-downs and gives off a real Frank Spencer vibe with his fantastic facial expressions and inability to understand rhetoric.
Writer (and co-director) Nick Lane grew up with the roar of the terrace in his ears and the love of theatre in his heart so was the obvious choice for a piece of theatre based on one of football’s greatest moments, and co-director Ian is the CEO and Artistic Director of the Courtyard. The pedigree of the pair shines through in this funny, spirited look back at this unforgettable time for Hereford United and the lives of the people entwined in it.
Watch Matt’s interview with Ronnie Radford HERE
Tickets are still available for The Goal until the last show on 13th October. You can purchase them through the website or call Box Office on 01432 340555.