Matt Healey continues the series.
Chris Price was born in Hereford on the 30th March 1960.
He went to Hunderton School and then aged 11 moved up to Haywood. Price signed originally as a YTS player for Hereford United.
I was playing at Lads Club with Kevin Sheedy and the youth team manager at Hereford was a chap called Tony Ford, we signed as apprentices ahead of the 1975/1976 season.
Price made his league debut aged 17 in a 2nd Division (Now Championship) against Notts County in a 3-2 defeat on the 1st April 1977. “Steve Ritchie had got injured and John Sillett (Hereford Manager) said the day before I would be making my debut, even though I was right footed I played at left back. I thought I played well and did the basics right. John Sillett thanked me for my efforts after the game and I played the next match against Cardiff City at Edgar Street”
A local derby against the Bluebirds would always be a feisty encounter. Hereford drew 2-2 after letting a 2-0 lead slip. The legendary Robin Friday was sent off for Cardiff in that game “The atmosphere was fantastic, it’s hard to believe that Hereford were playing in what is now the championship”
Unfortunately Hereford United were now a football club in decline. In 1964 the club had been relegated to the First Division of the Southern League (Now National League North/South) What happened then was 12 years of progression. Bob Dennison set the foundations with promotion back to the Southern League (Now National League) and then the legendary John Charles took over and his influence steered Hereford to be in a position to apply for election to the Football League. Colin Addison replaced the gentle giant in 1971 and the famous FA Cup run during the 1971/1972 season was a big influence in the club finally being elected to the Football League in 1972.
Another promotion was secured in 1973 and when John Sillett took over from Colin Addison in 1974 he achieved a promotion to the 2nd tier of English Football where the Bulls spent the 1976/1977 season pitting their wits against the likes of Wolves and Chelsea. Unfortunately Hereford would be relegated at the end of the campaign.
“We started that season well, but lost at Nottingham Forest 4-3, it seemed to affect our confidence and we lost a bit of belief in ourselves. The crowds then started to dip and they lost a bit of faith in us, we didn’t have the strength in depth when players got injured and we started to drop off and lost our way”
John Sillett left towards the end of the 1977/1978 season and Price’s old youth team manager Tony Ford took caretaker charge. One of his ideas was to bring in a hypnotherapist known as Romark, his real name was Ronald Markham. Romark had been featured on BBC television, he was a bit of a modern day Derren Brown. Price remembers meeting him “He tried to hypnotize me, the problem is I didn’t want to be hypnotized, it’s one of those things where you need to believe in it for it to work, it was a complete waste of time and money. To get out of it. I decided to pretend that he had hypnotized me, he only lasted about seven games, our form didn’t improve and he then left”
Hereford would then suffer a back to back relegation and at the start of the 1978/1979 season would be in the old Division Four (Now League Two). Former England international Mike Bailey was the new player manager at Edgar Street.
“Mike Bailey was good for me, he bought in Bobby Gould as his assistant, they encouraged me to get forward a lot more. I was playing left back at the time and wasn’t enjoying it. I’m right footed so had to keep cutting inside. I spoke to Mike and Bobby about it and they switched me to right back and I thrived in that position. They had a big impact on my game. I worked with Mike later on in my career when we were at Portsmouth together”
Mike Bailey and Bobby Gould would leave for Charlton in October 1979. Hereford stalwart Peter Isaac was put in temporary charge. After a few weeks of interviews Frank Lord was the new man at the helm at Edgar Street “He’s dead now Frank Lord bless him, but he probably saved my career. Me and Andy Feeley were going off the rails with our actions off the field, in fact Frank sacked Andy because of it. I realised I needed to sort myself and not go in the wrong direction. I needed to focus and stop drinking and thats what I did. It was hard for Frank being manager as we had no money and having to apply for re-election most seasons”
Price also made an appearance in goal when Kevin Rose was sent off against Blackpool on the 5th March 1983 “I kept a clean sheet and made some very unorthodox saves. Paul Stewart (Ex Tottenham and Liverpool) was playing for Blackpool that day and he hit an absolute thunderbolt at me which I tipped over. It was surreal being able to kick the ball from out of my hands but we drew 0-0 and earnt a point”
John Newman was about to take over at Edgar Street and under his tenure the club would have a revival. “John was fantastic, he gave me so much encouragement , he had huge respect from the players and got the best out of us”
Hereford would face Plymouth Argyle in an FA Cup 2nd round replay on the 12th December 1984. The prize would be a 3rd round home tie with Arsenal. Hereford defeated the Pilgrims 2-0 with goals from Ollie Kearns and Stewart Phillips. Price sets up Phillips for the 2nd goal which you can see below.
It was the 5th January 1985 and Hereford would face Division One (Now Premier League) Arsenal at Edgar Street. “The city was buzzing, we had a pre match meal in the Spread Eagle and we had steak which is probably what players wouldn’t have now before a game. We then walked over as a team to the ground, the fans were cheering us on and having photographs with us, I remember walking past the old Newmarket pub and it was full of Hereford fans singing, we made our way through the Cattle Market and arrived at the ground, the Arsenal team coach then arrived and the likes of John Lukic, Tony Woodcock, Tony Adams and Charlie Nicholas stepped off and they went into the players entrance. The atmosphere that day was the best I had experienced as a Hereford player”
Hereford would go 1-0 down after 22 minutes to a superb strike by Tony Woodcock, but 12 minutes later Price equalised for Hereford. “I remember the pitch being hard and icy and we adapted to the conditions better, we had worked on our goal in training. Jimmy Harvey had a long throw and he found Ollie Kearns, Ollie got a lot of stick, but he scored goals and his positional play at times was superb, he knew that I would be bombing off on the right, he found me with a perfect ball. I got onto the end of it. Stewart Phillips was in the penalty area ready to pounce and I planned to cross the ball, what happened was it bobbled up and on the bounce it went over John Lukic’s hand and it was amazing seeing the ball go into the net. I must confess it was a cross and not a shot, but It was a superb feeling and I went off on my jog/run to celebrate”
Seeing nearly 16,000 packed into Edgar Street makes incredible viewing. Its bizarre to think that it’s around three times what the capacity is now “It’s amazing looking at the footage and seeing the Meadow End so full, but it would never happen now with health and safety, we should have won it. Jimmy Harvey was pulling the strings in midfield and I made a couple of surging runs, but the ball wouldn’t bounce for me, Mike Carter had a chance at the end but Lukic made a save, we went down there for the replay and lost 7-2, but we should have wrapped it up at Edgar Street”
Unfortunately the season would end in disappointment “We should have won promotion, we let John Newman and the Hereford fans down badly, we bottled it, I don’t think it was down to a lack of effort and we had regular meetings, but with the talent in that squad we should have gone up and it still annoys me we let the chance slip. I remember seeing John sat in the dressing room all alone after a game near the end of the season. I think it was away at Blackpool and we lost 2-0, he looked absolutely devastated”
Despite interest from other clubs Price remained at Hereford for the 1985/1986 season. “I probably should have gone 12 months earlier. Coventry City were interested in me but when they came to watch me I had a poor game, we lost our first game of the season 4-0 away at Mansfield and we had a mid table season”
Hereford though did reach the area final of the newly formed Freight Rover Trophy. The prize would be a Wembley Final against Bolton Wanderers, but Hereford needed to get past Bristol City. “We beat them at Edgar Street 2-0, but Stewart Phillips got injured, we went down there for the 2nd leg and was keeping it tight, the crowd really got behind them at Ashton Gate, we just knew if we could score first then we would kill them off. They scored early in the 2nd half and the crowd just exploded, they were the 12th man, they scored again to make it 2-0 and it went to extra time, we had our chances to win, but they scored again right at the end and we missed out on a Wembley Final as we lost 3-2 on aggregate”
This would be Price’s last ever game for Hereford and he would depart to Blackburn Rovers for £20,000 in the close season of 1986.
He then moved to top flight Aston Villa for £150,000 in 1988. He returned to Blackburn in 1992 and helped them win promotion to the Premier League and then had a spell with Portsmouth. He nearly returned to Hereford in early 1994.
“I had a meeting with Hereford Manager Greg Downs and I was going to sign initially on loan, but I had an Achilles problem. I knew I wasn’t fit and I had lost my pace. I didn’t want to come back and not be able to give my best. I ended up having an operation and I was out for 12 months, Greg wanted me to postpone the operation and sign for him. I spoke to Peter Hill (Hereford Chairman) as well, but in my heart I knew I wouldn’t be able to give 100%. I didn’t want to cheat the fans. Greg was disappointed and I would have loved to have ended my career at Hereford, but it just wasn’t meant to be”
Price recovered and went over to the USA to play in the American Indoor Soccer League for Dallas Sidekicks and returned to England in 1995 and played for Cinderford Town, he later coached at Cheltenham Town and became manager of Newport County and returned to Cinderford to manage them in the late 1990’s.
Price did return to Hereford in December 1998 when Aston Villa sent a full strength side to Edgar Street to play in his testimonial game “I can’t thank the Villa manager who was John Gregory at the time enough. I wasn’t able to play sadly as I was injured, but Villa at the time were top of the Premier League. The likes of Mark Bosnich, Lee Hendrie and Stan Collymore played, even my old mate Gordon Cowans came and guested for Hereford, it’s so sad to read he is suffering with dementia now, we had a really good crowd and the Hereford manager Graham Turner was brilliant. Andy Morris at Westfields did a great job behind the scenes and the club and supporters were fantastic that night”
Price played top flight football for Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers and featured in the inaugural Premier League season in 1992 playing alongside Alan Shearer at Ewood Park “I don’t think all these high wages and agents are good for the game. You can get some players who are millionaires and have not played a first team match, all you need is a decent contract and you are now set up for life. I just think it’s too easy and players lose that motivation with hundreds of thousands of pounds in the bank, we had appearance and win money back when I played, but it’s small change compared to what they get now”
Price though does have sympathy regarding an issue which is mainstream news at the moment “I do though feel sorry for the players who get the abuse on social media, the problem is at the moment due to Covid everyone has so much free time on their hands and it’s easy to get your phone and laptop and send abuse, the regulators need to clamp down on it urgently, some of the stuff that’s been sent recently has been horrific”
Price is now living in Australia with his family and has retired from football after a brief spell coaching at Gold Coast United. “There’s a number of ex Hereford players here, the likes of Sean Lane, Frank McGrellis and Ian Dobson, the climate here is fantastic, it’s a totally different world here on the Gold Coast, it’s like a paradise, the winter it’s about 20C and the summer is extremely warm, we get kangaroos bouncing into our garden and you can see the Koala’s in the tree’s. I’m currently working for the Gold Coast City Council and we have an amazing life out here”
Price though may be back next year “Last time I came to Hereford was three years ago when my mum sadly passed away, it was freezing and 6 inches of snow, my daughter Natasha represents Australia now and is hoping to make it to the 2022 Commonwealth games, it’s being held in Birmingham so if she is selected I will definitely be paying Hereford a visit as along as Covid allows me”
*Picture’s supplied by Ron Parrott, MH Archive, Hereford Journal, Twitter, Sporting Heroes