Following a brilliant run of four straight league wins, it’s back to cup action this weekend as the Blues take on Stanway Rovers in the FA Vase. It will be a tough fixture against our Essex opponents who are the equivalent of one league above us but home advantage, backed by what has been described this week as a ‘hostile crowd’ may help Hertford progress.
From there, the battle intensifies to reach Wembley and to emulate the success of a certain set of Hertfordshire neighbours who won the very first version of the trophy 40 years ago. If you know your history Bookmakers such as Betfair won’t take an interest in the FA Vase until the later rounds but a huge crowd is expected at Hertingfordbury Park on Saturday. Each game at this stage is like a mini final and we’ll all be hoping for a similar performance that saw the Blues breeze past Ilford by four goals to nil in the previous round.
The FA Vase is essentially seen as a replacement for the old Amateur Cup and while that’s true to a great extent, there are key differences between the two competitions. Back in 1974, the already ill-defined line between Professionals and Amateurs was becoming increasingly blurred and there was no doubt that paid players were taking part in what had clearly been established as an amateur competition.
The old title was binned and renamed as the Vase but this time, the qualification rules were thrown wide open to reach teams further down the ladder.
As the new regime kicked off, Hoddesdon Town were the first winners of the FA Vase in 1975. Under the stewardship of Dave Bidwell, the team possessed a number of former Hertford players including Billy Green, Les Picking and the keeper Fred Gulvin.
A 2-1 win in the final ensured a place in history but for the next few years, the trophy spent most of its time across the border.
In 1976, Billericay Town won the competition, beating Stamford by a goal to nil in the final and they became the first team to successfully defend the Vase after a replay win over Sheffield saw the cup return to Essex 12 months later.
That proud run was ended by Newcastle Blue Star in 1978 but a year later Billericay were back again, beating Bristol based outfit Almondsbury Greenway in the final.
In total, seven sides have repeated Billericay’s feat of successfully defending the trophy but only one has gone on to win it on three consecutive occasions. In 2009, Whitley Bay took the title after beating Glossop North End at Wembley and two years later they made it three in a row with a 3-2 victory against Coalville Town.
Sandwiched in between those two successes was the biggest win in a final to date – a 6-1 hammering of Wroxham in 2010. Whitley Bay are also the most successful side in FA Vase history with four trophies – Billericay are clear in second place with three wins.
Stansted added to the successes of our neighbouring county with a 2-0 victory over Stamford back in 1984 but to date, Hoddesdon Town’s success in 1975 is the only time that a Hertfordshire club has won the Vase. Berkhamsted Town did make the final at Villa Park in 2001 before going down to Taunton Town by a 2-1 scoreline.
40 years on from the inception of the competition, Hertford Town take on Stanway Rovers and will naturally hope that one day, they can emulate the noisy neighbours and bring the Vase home!