Matt Healey continues the series.
Adrian Foster was born in Kidderminster on the 19th March 1971. His first club was West Brom and after spells at Torquay, Gillingham and a loan move to Exeter he arrived at Hereford United in the summer of 1996.
“Graham Turner (Hereford Manager) called me and asked me to come over for a chat, I had a conversation with him, and thought it would be a good move. I knew of him during my time at West Brom when he was Wolves manager”
The previous season Steve White had been the league’s top scorer, but he had departed Edgar Street to join the Bluebirds of Cardiff City. Replacing a 30+ season goalscorer was always going to be difficult. Hereford FC had the same problem when John Mills left after three successful prolific goalscoring seasons. I felt sorry for Harry White who had to step into Mills’s shoes.
“I didn’t really notice what he did (Steve White), I was playing for Gillingham at the time, I did see he got a load of goals near the end of the season, as he scored two against Exeter City when I was there on loan, but I knew I could score around 20 goals for Hereford if I kept myself fit”
Hereford started the season with two Foster’s upfront. Ian Foster was signed from Liverpool and was tipped for great things. Pre Season started well with both Fosters regularly on the scoresheet, and the duo scored the goals in a 2-0 win over higher graded Wrexham in the final warm up game. A week later the new season would begin.
Hereford lost 1-0 on the opening game to Fulham, and a shocking start saw the club bottom of the league in mid September. Foster hadn’t scored a league goal, and was also red carded in a 4-0 midweek loss at Swansea City.
He opened his league account with the final goal in a 3-0 win over Rochdale on the 21st September 1996.
The frustration for Adrian Foster was the lack of a striking partner. Ian Foster didnt score any that season, and Chris Hargreaves was more of a wide player who was playing an attacking role “It was me and (centre half) Dean Smith scoring the goals. I felt if we werent scoring nobody else would. It was added pressure for me”
Foster would then go on a run of goals in the Autumn, by early November he had notched 7 league goals. These included a brace against Chester City in a 3-1 away win.
Hereford then went on a dreadful 13 match run of no wins. In this peroid Foster only scored once which was in a 5-1 thrashing at Scunthorpe United on the 18th January 1997.
The following week the runs of winless games ended as a Chris Hargreaves goal secured the points at Cambridge United and Foster was on the scoresheet the next week in a 3-1 home win against Wigan Athletic.
On the 16th February 1997 Hereford drew 1-1 with Cardiff City. In a hard fought local derby Foster equalised in front of the Meadow End with a superb volley.
Foster had scored 12 league goals ahead of the trip to top of the table Carlisle United on the 15th March 1997. Hereford desperately needed a win.
“I had seen a psychologist in the week before the Carlisle game, and he came in and gave a positive speech to us all. He then invited us to see him individually. He asked me what the problem was…. before I answered he told me to hold my question”
Foster continued “He said you own your house, you have a car, you have money, most people would love to be a professional footballer, whats the problem? I stuttered, and he then said every time you feel down, think about visiting a hospice, and seeing children in there suffering, and then come back to me and say you have problems in your head. It hit home to me, and I realised I had nothing to worry about”
The Carlisle game Hereford started badly and were 2-0 down after 15 minutes “I told the lads nobody expects us to win, we need to remain positive. We did that. I managed to score a hat trick and we won 3-2. It was an incredible comeback as Carlisle were flying at the time”
in the following weeks Hereford were then sucked into a relegation battle . Foster scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Hull City on Easter Monday.
It was down to the final game of the season at Edgar Street to see who would stay up. Brighton who had been rock bottom for most of the season had been galvanised by new manager Steve Gritt and Hereford had been leap frogged by them in the penultimate game of the season the week before.
The Football league fixture computer back in the previous summer by a spooky twist of fate calculated that the final match of the season would be a relegation decider. Hereford needed to beat Brighton to stay up. Brighton needed to avoid defeat.
“The team we had wasn’t bad, all I could think was we would win, we dominated for most of the match. I had a chance to win it at the end. I got pulled back by the defender, and my shot went into the goalkeepers hands. I was devastated”
Hereford were tragically relegated from the Football League on 3rd May 1997. To stay in the Football League Hereford needed to win. Brighton needed a win or a draw. The game ended 1-1.
Despite accruing 47 points, which would normally most seasons keep you up. It was sods law that in the 1996/1997 season the rules had changed.
Usually when a team is level on points, the usual system of goal difference would kick in, but that season it was changed to goals scored, and with Hereford scoring less than Brighton, and with both clubs level on 47 points, Hereford went down by just 3 goals. If it had been on goal difference then the Bulls would have survived, but because of the new ruling they would now be subjected to life as a non league club in the GM Vauxhall Conference.
Foster would leave Hereford at the end of the season “Rushden and Diamonds put in a bid for me during the summer. I had no intention of leaving, I was offered another contract and wanted to stay. Hereford weren’t in a great place financially. I didn’t go to a league club. Rushden were in the GM Vauxhall Conference too”
Foster joined the Northamptonshire club for a reported fee of £35,000. Which was good business considering he arrived at Edgar Street on a free transfer the previous year.
Foster then would became a pantomime villain among Hereford supporters. I always found this to be unfair. He scored 16 league goals (plus one in the Coca Cola cup) in 42 starts for a team that ended up bottom of the Football League. Foster did more than his fair share. The other strikers didn’t come up with the goals.
Hereford went away to Rushden on the 11th October 1997 and lost 1-0.
Foster was met with carrots on the pitch by the away supporters. I asked him how he coped with that and the verbal abuse that day “It never bothered me. I was just disappointed. I slogged my guts out for a season and scored a load of goals. The fans were great when I was at Edgar Street. They made me a shirt which I would show underneath my Hereford shirt when I scored goals. At the time the supporters didn’t know the real story why I left the club”
Hereford would play Rushden the following season and this documentary from 1999 shows the feelings of supporters. Watch from around the 11 minute mark.
Foster would then have further spells at Yeovil, Forest Green and Bath City, and was manager of Frome in the mid 10’s. In fact whilst playing for Forest Green he scored the final goal in the 6-3 aggregate FA Trophy Semi Final win over Hereford United in April 2001
He is currently involved with Football coaching in Somerset.