Ronnie Radford, whose thunderous strike for Hereford United in the quagmire of Edgar Street against Newcastle remains one of the greatest FA Cup moments, has died aged 79.
Television footage of Radford’s equaliser in the 2-1 third-round win against the first division side in February 1972 has become one of the venerable competition’s most treasured and repeated scenes.
“Goals like mine are scored every week, up and down the country,” Radford said years later, “but we were playing out the classic FA Cup story and that was just part of the script.”
A statement from Hereford on Wednesday afternoon read: “We are devastated to hear of Ronnie’s passing, and wish to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time. Ronnie is not just a part of Hereford United folklore, he is a part of football history and has kept Hereford on the football map since 1972.
“His mild manner, and friendly and modest approach to life epitomised the man he was and he was always delighted to visit Edgar Street, to meet up with past teammates and watch the present day team in action. We will always keep Ronnie close to our hearts at Edgar Street, not just at FA Cup moments, but forever and celebrate him and his huge role in propelling Hereford United to the forefront of the nation’s attention with that goal and being part of that team. We will carry your spirit onwards. Rest in peace Ronnie.”
Radford later played for Worcester City, managing the club for the 1974-75 season, taking them to second in the Southern League.
He told the Guardian in 2008: “It means a lot to be remembered for that goal against Newcastle. I went to get a hearing aid last week because I’m going slightly deaf and the guy who fitted it was a Sheffield Wednesday fan. He asked me my name and when I said it was Ronald Radford he told me that was also the name of a famous footballer. I told him I was that footballer and he went red in the face and couldn’t stop smiling. I found that bewildering. I’ve never wanted to be famous; I still don’t feel famous now.”
On that fateful FA Cup day in 1972 Hereford became the first non-league team to beat a top-flight side for 23 years, Radford’s searing shot on a bog of a pitch – the replay had been postponed three times and was played on fourth-round day – sparking a pitch invasion as fans in black and white scarves mobbed their No 11, whose both-arms-raised celebration has become the stuff of FA Cup lore.
Radford’s shot made it 1-1, but it was Ricky George who got the winner. George posted on social media on Wednesday: “I am sad to report the passing of the great Ronnie Radford, a man with a heart as big as Wembley stadium. Immortalised by his sensational goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United in 1972, Ronnie’s name will be enshrined in FA Cup folklore forever. Love you top man.”
John Motson added he would always be grateful to Radford for helping him launch his distinguished career with an FA Cup fairytale. The legendary commentator said: “I was on trial at Match of the Day for a year and I got given this game, which I know was a replay and they’d drawn up at Newcastle, but most people thought Hereford were going to lose by one or two goals – and when Malcolm Macdonald scored, it looked that way.
“And then Ronnie changed everything. He changed his life, my life, the history of the FA Cup with a goal that came out of nowhere. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen a shot fly through the air and go into the net quite like it.”