Matt Healey continues the series.
Rob Warner was born in Stratford on the 20th April 1977. He signed for Hereford as a YTS player originally in 1993.
“Greg Downs was the manager when I signed originally, but John Layton was in charge of the youth team. In my 2nd season as a YTS Greg left early in the season and the board gave the job to John (Layton).
Layton’s Hereford side were humiliated on Boxing Day 1994 7-1 to Mansfield Town. Layton knew the youth team and drafted in two of them. Warner and another YTS player in Andy Brownrigg would make their league debuts the following day against Exeter City.
Andy Llewellyn who was on a short term contract had played at right back for Hereford in the Mansfield debacle and had a torrid time that day at Field Mill. He never played for the club again. Warner would replace him.
“I was out with my family for a meal on Boxing Day and my mum got the call that I would be involved in the first team the next day. I remember being nervous and its one of those occasions where you have to borrow your dad’s suit for the pre match hotel meet up, but I played and we beat Exeter 3-0”
Warner added “Former Hereford player Colin Anderson played for them that day and even though he had a great career, his legs were going by then and on a heavy pitch the younger legs carried us through”
Warner was a regular in the first team. Brownrigg was later sold to Norwich City for £100,000.
Tragedy struck though on the 17th April 1995 in the home game against promotion chasing Mansfield Town.
“I remember being really up for the game, it was early in the first half and went in for a challenge with the winger near the dugout. I cleared the ball and followed through but I connected with his studs and heard a crack and that was my leg broken. I was in hospital a few weeks later having my cast looked at and met a Hereford fan who was in for a broken arm, and he said he could hear the crack from the Meadow End”
Warner missed the entire 1995/1996 campaign due to the broken leg.
“We had a great end to the season and made the play offs. I remember watching the 3-0 win against Plymouth under the floodlights. The atmosphere was incredible”
A fully recovered Warner signed a new contract ahead of the 1996/1997 season. He made his first team return after nearly 18 months out against Premier League Middlesbrough in the League Cup.
“We got thumped 7-0 away in the first leg and we had a few injuries so I got myself back in the team for the return game at Edgar Street. The 2nd leg they rested some of their players, but they still had Branco playing for them. Three years earlier he won the World Cup for Brazil and he gave me his shirt at the end of the game”
Warner would be a semi-regular starter after Christmas as the Bulls were sucked into a relegation battle. The last game of the season saw Hereford face Brighton. The Bulls needed to win to stay in the Football League.
“I played in midfield and we went with a 4-3-3 formation. We played an attacking formation with three strikers as we had to win. We had a great start and were 1-0 up at half time, we just needed that 2nd goal to kill the game off. In the 2nd half they equalised. I remember the goal, the initial shot hit the post and bless him, but our central defender Trevor Matthewson wasn’t the quickest and couldn’t get to the ball in time and Robbie Reinelt scored”
Warner continued “The goal totally sucked the life out of us and the rest of the game flew by. You could sense the tension in the crowd and it was horrible when the final whistle went, The dressing room was full of tears. Our captain David Norton was incredibly upset”
Warner would stay at the club for the 1997/1998 season on a week to week basis as Hereford bid to return back to the Football League at the first time of asking.
Hereford started poorly and struggled to adapt to life in non league football, but a win against Sittingbourne in the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup meant a home tie with Brighton. One of the biggest crowds of the season would pack into Edgar Street.
Warner was one of three players who played in that horrific game in May and would also be in the Hereford side that faced Brighton in the 1st round of the FA Cup. Fate six months later meant that The Bulls had a chance to gain some revenge.
I asked him to compare and contrast the two matches.
“We had a strong team in the Conference, the board backed Graham Turner who signed some decent players. It was nice to beat Brighton and we had a great evening celebrating, but it would have been so much better staying in the league”
Warner would also score in the penalty shoot out win which knocked out League Two Colchester United in the 2nd round replay at a freezing cold night inside Edgar Street.
“I never scored a goal for Hereford, but did score in that penalty shoot out. It was the final penalty that I took and we scored 5 out of 5. It was down to Colchester to score their final penalty to take it to sudden death”
Andy deBont was the hero and saved Scott Stamps’s final spot kick. “He was a big lad was Andy and a big presence in his goal, he had saved a penalty against Brighton in the previous round, so we knew he had that in his locker, unfortunately I wasn’t in the team for the Tranmere defeat in the next round”
Hereford never threatened the top spot and Halifax Town with the goals of Geoff Horsfield ran away with the title. Back then there were no play offs so the season was effectively over by the middle of the season for the Bulls. Hereford finished in 6th position.
Despite playing 32 league games Warner would leave at the end of the season.
“Graham (Turner) sat me down and said he was letting me go, but if I didn’t get a club I could contact him and we could look at it again, but I wanted to play regularly and I joined Tamworth, in my time there we reached the final of the FA Trophy and won the Dr Martens League. It was a great time for me”
Warner later played for Halesowen and Worcester City but retired in 2007.
“I run a company now which supply uniforms to the MOD. I still look out for Hereford’s results and nearly 30 years on i’m still in contact with the likes of Lee Relish and Chris Simms (YTS players) and I was best man at Dean Clarke’s wedding. They were really happy times for me at Edgar Street”
*Photos supplied by MH Archive & Ron Parrott