Matt Healey continues the series
Steve Emery was born on the 7th February 1956 and became the first apprentice professional at Hereford United . I started by asking how he became a footballer .
Emery told me “I played school football in Ledbury and then played Saturday and Sunday league. I was also playing for the Ledbury British Legion. We played a final at Edgar Street and the Hereford manager Colin Addison watched the game, anyhow, he must of seen something in me as he got in contact and I ended up signing for the club. I was bought up with the giantkillers, the likes of Ken Mallender, Ronnie Radford and Ricky George. I spent a couple of years playing reserve and youth football before I made my league debut”
That league debut was on the 17th February 1974 away at Cambridge United in a 2-0 defeat. “I vaguely remember it, but it was a long time ago”
Emery would appear in seven league games that season, but in the summer of 1974 Colin Addison would depart. Their paths will cross again later in the story. Former Bristol City coach John Sillett arrived as manager. I asked Emery how they got on.
“You didn’t want to get on the wrong side of him, he was like a headmaster, but he knew what he was doing and he knew everything that was going on at the club”
Emery would play 44 league games during the 1974/1975 season as Hereford finished 10th in the league. The next season would be the greatest in Hereford United’s history.
“Not very often you get a scenario where the squad gelled as much as we did, it all clicked and we just came together”
Looking back there were some fantastic attendances at Edgar Street in the 1975/1976 campaign , 12,314 at home to Shrewsbury, 12,970 against Crystal Palace and 10,176 against Millwall.
The away crowds were exceptional too. An attendance of 35,549 at Ninian Park saw the Bluebirds of Cardiff City beat Hereford 2-0 on the 14th April 1976
“We beat Cardiff at home 4-1 that season. I scored in that game, but it was exciting times and being a part of it and as a local lad it was brilliant”
Hereford would end the 1975/1976 season as 3rd Division champions and the 1976/1977 campaign would see the club competing in the old 2nd Division which is now the Championship of English football.
The summer started badly for Emery “We played Merthyr Tydfil in a pre-season friendly and I fractured my knee cap and missed most of the season”
Emery would only play 19 games and after a bright start Hereford finished bottom, a late revival of wins towards the end of the season came too late and Hereford went down.
I asked him how he got on with Dixie McNeil who still scored 16 league goals for a struggling side “Dixie was a goalscorer, he just loved scoring goals. Him and Steve Davey worked so well together up front. Davey wasn’t as prolific but set up a lot of Dixie’s goals, they were a brilliant partnership for us”
Hereford would then suffer a back to back relegation and plummeted to the 4th tier of English football for the 1978/1979 season. “We weren’t the biggest club in the league and didn’t have the financial backing of other teams. We worked so hard to get promotion and it was horrible to see us be relegated twice”
It would be Emery’s old Hereford United manager Colin Addison who took Emery to 1st Division (Now Premier League) Derby County in a £100,000 transfer in 1979.
“It was very daunting at first. The team was full of experienced international players, looking back some were getting towards the end of their careers, but it was brilliant playing at places likes Anfield and Old Trafford. I’m a Liverpool fan so I made sure I touched the plaque on the way to the pitch. I played at Anfield on three occasion’s. On each game we took a 1-0 lead but lost 3-1”
Emery made 75 appearances for Derby County.
I asked why he left the Baseball Ground “Injuries were affecting me. During my career I broke my kneecap at Hereford United, I then ended up breaking my leg twice. I broke an ankle and also fractured my cheekbone, plus I snapped my Achilles tendon. I never had any muscle injuries, but I seemed to break a lot of bones”
Former Nottingham Forest assistant Peter Taylor had taken over from Colin Addison and Emery would leave the club in 1983.
“Colin had taken over at Newport County so I went there briefly. John Newman had been his assistant at Derby County so when John took over at Edgar Street I joined him there for two seasons”
Emery was part of the Hereford United team who drew 1-1 with Arsenal in an FA Cup 3rd round match at Edgar Street on the 5th January 1985.
“I remember it being very cold and the pitch was hard, we should have won. Mick Carter had a great chance to win it at the end”
“I was bought up with the 1972 Giantkillers and looking back if we had won we as a team would have created a legacy for ourselves. We went to Highbury for the replay but they battered us 7-2”
Despite being top of the league in March 1985, Hereford would then fall away to 5th place and miss out on promotion. Back then there were no Play Offs and the top four teams went up. “Looking back we should have done a lot better, we had a great team, the likes of Chris Price, Mel Pejic, Keith Hicks, John Delve, Jimmy Harvey and Ollie and Stewart up front”
Emery would leave Hereford that summer. “Dixie McNeil was now manager at Wrexham and he asked me to join them. I only played about 10 games as I got injured. I remember coming back to training and being about 20 yards behind everybody else in the running, so I knew then it was time to call it a day. I had a 13 year professional career and played in the top flight so I thought I did well, maybe looking back I should have scored more goals though”
Emery would then go part time. “I played for Gloucester City, then joined Westfields, Phil Powell I knew from my Hereford United days and he was the manager. I later became Westfield’s player manager when Phil left”
“I had a stint at Ledbury Town too. Some games were difficult, but it was good to still be involved in football”
Emery now works as a painter and decorator in Ledbury. His son Josh played in the Football League for Cheltenham and had a brief spell for Hereford FC in 2015.
“A few years ago I was in Hereford for work and thought I would pop into the ground to have a look, nobody at the club knew who I was, but they let me in and it was great to be on the pitch and relive some memories again”
Photos Supplied by Ron Parrott and the MH HUFC Archive