The clocks went forward on Sunday morning; just hours after Hereford FC completed another giant leap towards the upper reaches of the non-league pyramid.
A 4-0 win at fellow phoenix club Salisbury FC, coupled with defeats for title rivals Taunton Town and Tiverton Town, ensured that the Bulls secured promotion into the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League.
Manager Peter Beadle and his players remained on the pitch at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium as they awaited news of their title rivals’ results.
As the news filtered through the celebrations began, with the Bulls securing a second consecutive title win and incredibly a fourth trophy since the club was reborn in 2015.
And for Beadle, a man that knows what the club’s support base went through as Hereford United’s proud history was ended, the feeling of being champions before the clocks went forward was a “surreal one”.
He said “You are so focused on having a good season, trying to compete in a new league, against new clubs; it’s quite surreal to be promoted, to be champions of this league by the time the clocks went forward.
“It’s disappointing, maybe that isn’t the correct word, but it would have been nice to have won the league at home, in front of our own fans but we aren’t complaining.
“We are at home on Saturday, there will be a huge crowd and hopefully we can celebrate in the right way with three points.
“Maybe then, when I see our own fans celebrating at Edgar Street, we will realise what we have done.
“Maybe then it will hit home that we have reached our goal for the season because at the moment, even two days later, it is still sinking in”
Twelve months ago Hereford were preparing to make the jump from the Midland Football League into the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League Division One South and West.
On the back of a treble winning season, and a trip to Wembley in the FA Vase Final, momentum was building as they took to the task of taking on their first season in step four.
Fast forward twelve months and the Bulls have been beaten only once in the league, a 2-1 home reverse against Taunton Town.
Promotion has been secured and Beadle believes that his side’s never-say-die attitude has helped them to a second league title.
“There are eight or nine clubs in this league that would have believed they could win it at the start of the season.
“You always want to be competitive and to be competitive means that you are looking to win the league.
“Having said that if you had told me back at the start of the season that we would win the league this early I wouldn’t have believed you.
“We have had luck, we should have been beaten on a few occasions but we never threw the towel in. We never do and that is why we are where we are now.
“The lads have been great and they have done what we have asked of them.
“We still have work to do because we face clubs that have something to play for and we will be honest.
“The challenge is now to finish on a high and ensure we keep our defeats down to the one against Taunton”
In the aftermath of Saturday’s game Beadle’s Salisbury counterpart paid tribute to the Bulls.
Former Portsmouth and Leicester City striker Steve Claridge described Hereford’s performance as “astonishing” and Beadle admitted that hearing a former Premier League player talk about his side in those terms meant a lot.
“Steve has been there and done it as a player, so to hear someone like him talking about us in that way is fantastic.
“It really means a lot to me and to the club.
“I felt for him because they are a good side but he has been hit by injuries at the wrong time really.
“They are a similar club to us, trying to make their way back and they are still in with a good chance of getting a play-off spot”
Work has already started as Beadle looks to get his Bulls side ready for the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League’s top tier, where they will face a number of established clubs.
However, evolution rather than revolution is the way forward according to the man himself.
“We are always looking to evolve on and off the pitch” admitted Beadle.
“We want to improve but we will do so in a way that stays within our budget.
“We have been looking for a few weeks, albeit tentatively.
“Now we can look seriously at what we need and getting up early is a bonus because it gives us a head start in preparing for next season”
Beadle’s final words went to the Bulls supporters, who have followed their side in great numbers throughout the season.
They took a large following to Salisbury on Saturday and rewarded them with a sparkling performance and the league title.
And the Bulls boss paid tribute to their supporters, hailing them as “our twelfth man”.
“They are second to none” said Beadle.
“They are spectacular and they have always travelled in great numbers. We had around six hundred there on Saturday and they have always stuck with us.
“We know that will continue.
“The players wear the shirt with pride and the fans know that. That is why there is such a good connection between the supporters and the players.
“They really have been our twelfth man and they will continue to be”
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Hereford FC (Steve Niblett)