Matt Healey continues the series.
Steve “Chalkie” White was born in Chipping Sodbury on the 2nd January 1959. His first professional club was Bristol Rovers, then this followed with spells at Luton Town, Charlton Athletic, back to Bristol Rovers, Swindon Town and joining Hereford United in August 1994.
I asked him how the move to Edgar Street came about. “I had a look around the area and met with the Manager (Greg Downs) and Chairman (Peter Hill) they sold it to me over dinner, Greg was smoking a cigar with a pint of bitter and I thought this is a friendly football club…. I had an opportunity to go to Plymouth Argyle with Peter Shilton, but geographically as I was living in Bristol the easier thing was to join Hereford, they offered me a two year contract with favourable terms, but the over riding factor was the friendless of the club”
White would make his debut in a 0-0 draw against Walsall on the 27th August 1994, he had a goal unfairly ruled out when referee Scott Mathieson forgot to play the advantage rule.
White would open his account for the Bulls a week later in a 3-1 win over Rochdale and then scored the winning goal to knock West Brom out of the League Cup on the 7th September 1994. “It was one of my better goals, I curled it into the corner”
Downs would be sacked as Hereford manager in mid September and his assistant John Layton took over as manager “Greg had signed a number of players like Tony James, Dean Smith and Nicky Cross, it was upsetting to lose him”.
The goals though continued for White and he finished the 1994/1995 season as top scorer with 19 in league and cup competitions. A personal favourite of mine was the winner in a 2-1 win at home to Northampton on 4th February 1995.
Despite heavy investment in the playing budget Hereford would finish the season in a disappointing 16th position.
Graham Turner would then take over as the gaffer at Edgar Street. White speaks highly of the former Aston Villa manager “I had great respect for Graham he was strict, but he had huge respect in the dressing room, he understood that the older players needed a little more rest and managed to get the best of us”
White opened his account during the 1995/1996 season with a brace in a 4-3 home loss to Bury on the 26th August 1995.
The goals continued for White and his double in a 2-0 win over Sutton United in the 2nd round, meant the club would face Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup 3rd Round. The initial game on the 6th January 1996 ended 1-1 at Edgar Street. This meant a replay at White Hart Lane.
“The replay was a fantastic financial boost for the club, we knew money was tight so to get that result at Edgar Street was brilliant” Hereford would lose 5-1 in London but made plenty of money in gate receipts that evening.
Hereford would then have a fixture backlog due to bad weather and cup runs. White would score 13 goals in the final 11 games. This included a couple against Exeter City on April 8th 1996.
White would score his 200th league goal in English football in a 3-2 win over Leyton Orient a few days later.
A personal favourite match for White was scoring three goals against Plymouth Argyle in a 3-0 win at Edgar Street on April 16th 1996, “It was a sweet hat trick that one, Neil Warnock was the manager of Argyle back then”
I asked White how he went on a such fantastic run of goals “Strangely when your younger you tend to do a lot more work outside the box, when I came to Hereford I scored 33 in my 2nd season, as you get older you learn to not waste energy I was able to finish with my left or right foot and get between defenders in the penalty area, it becomes more instinctive. You learn how to get the better of your opponent” White ended the 1995/1996 season with 33 league and cup goals.
(c) MH Archive
In the last twelve games Hereford would gain 28 points out of a possible 36 to reach the Third Division Play Offs. They would face Darlington, but were to go down 2-1 in both legs against the Quakers losing 4-2 on aggregate.
“Darlington were a better side than us, they were more powerful, we had a fantastic season though with plenty of treasured moments”
White would cause plenty of distress to Hereford fans when he departed Edgar Street in July 1996 to join Cardiff City. At the time Graham Turner offered White a one year contract with a bit of coaching as an added incentive, but he rejected the terms to join Phil Neal at Ninian Park. Carl Dale had scored a lot of goals for the Bluebirds the previous season and the club had the league’s two top scorers now on their books.
“It was a difficult decision to move to Cardiff. I was getting on. Hereford had previously given me a decent contract. I delivered the goods by scoring lots of goals. I was 37 and still fit enough to play professional football. Hereford didn’t offer similar terms. Cardiff offered me a two year contract. They were a big football club and a huge fanbase. When your a pro you are aware that you don’t tend to stay longer than two to three years at a team. Looking back Hereford got the best of out of me”
White scored 14 league and cup goals for Cardiff during the 1996/1997 season. Probably a bit less than what they expected. Two of these were against Hereford United in a 2-0 defeat for the Bulls at Ninian Park on the 23rd November 1996.
Hereford would finish the 1996/1997 season bottom of the league and relegated to the GM Vauxhall Conference. White would suffer play off heartbreak again as Cardiff would get knocked out of the 3rd Division play offs by Northampton Town.
The Bluebirds had upheaval in the managers chair that season. Phil Neal who signed White left early that season to join Manchester City as Assistant Manager, Russell Osman then took caretaker charge, but by the end of the season ex Walsall manager Kenny Hibbitt was in the hot seat.
It was a contentious subject amongst Hereford fans whether White should have been offered a two year contract to stay.
Finances were tight at the club and the gamble to bring in the likes of Steve White, Richard Wilkins, Tony James and Dean Smith put the club under serious financial pressure. Its worth remembering that Hereford had signed White back in 1994 from what is now Championship side Swindon Town and the previous season White was playing in the Premier League for the Robins. Hereford were financially punching above their weight.
Graham Turner didn’t want to risk the clubs financial survival and for the 1996/1997 he went with younger players. For the record despite a lucrative FA Cup replay at Tottenham and finishing in the play off places the club still made a huge financial loss during the 1995/1996 season. Turner’s decision not to re-sign White though ultimately backfired, as Hereford finished bottom of Division Three and would become a non league club.
If White had decided to stay at Edgar Street would Hereford of stayed up? most definitely. I think an Adrian Foster and Steve White partnership would have been successful, what let Hereford down during the 1996/1997 season was the lack of a striking partner for the heavily maligned Adrian Foster. Foster ironically scored more goals for Hereford than White did Cardiff City. Foster totted up 17 league and cup goals for the Bulls that campaign which was 3 more than White who scored 14.
White’s 2nd year at Ninian Park was a disappointment and he only scored 3 goals during the 1998/1999 season for the Bluebirds. This proved the two year contract was a mistake for Cardiff. He spent time on loan at Cwmbran during that campaign.
Watching back, White was an excellent goal scorer for the Bulls, he notched up 52 league and cup goals in just under two seasons, a fantastic record and the most prolific striker since Dixie McNeil in the 1970’s.
White left Cardiff in the summer of 1999 and then joined Bath City permanently in the Dr Martens League (Now National League South) , he later became manager of Chippenham. He is now involved in property developments “I still have a great affection for Hereford, I had my best goal scoring season ever there”
Steve White with Matt Healey – December 2018 (c) Bulls News