Kidderminster host West Ham in the FA Cup… 28 years after close loss

‘Maybe this tie will remind the new generation what our team achieved’: Kidderminster gave West Ham an almighty scare in the FA Cup in 1994… now their former boss is backing the sixth-tier side to do the same again in the fourth round

  • Kidderminster will host West Ham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday
  • The Harriers lost 1-0 to the Hammers in the same competition back in 1994
  • Former boss Graham Allner reflects on the club’s previous FA Cup journey 

As phones pinged, old photos were found and stories told, the WhatsApp group of former players agreed they had to get their hands on tickets.

Kidderminster Harriers, of the National League North, had been drawn against West Ham in the FA Cup, as they were 28 years ago, and the prospect of Saturday’s rematch has propelled this Worcestershire town, built upon its carpet industry, back in time.

‘The coincidences are amazing when you stop and think,’ says Graham Allner, former Harriers boss, as he took a framed picture montage from his wall and scanned the images.

Former Kidderminster Harriers boss Graham Allner reflects on FA Cup tie with West Ham 28 years ago

Kidderminster will now come up against Premier League side West Ham United on Saturday

 ‘Birmingham in the third round, with Sullivan, Gold and Brady. Preston in the fourth round, with David Moyes. West Ham in the fifth round.

‘I still remember gathering for the draw in the vice-president’s lounge. Television and radio were there to see who we’d get and out came West Ham or Notts County.

‘Before I knew what was happening our chairman, David Reynolds, who was a bit of a jack-in-the-box, full of energy, was telling somebody we’d switch the game to West Ham if they won the replay, which they did.

‘I had to grab him and tell him that, one, we had a better chance of winning at home and, two, we had to show the Football League we could handle this.’

Former boss Allner holds a place in the corner of the competition’s history for having played every minute of its longest-ever tie

Kidderminster were ambitious. Top of the old Conference, they had eyes on the Football League but had been told their Aggborough stadium did not meet the required standard and that promotion was impossible.

It rankled, but the FA Cup offered the chance to show off a club founded in 1886.

‘When you get a draw like this, it goes crazy,’ says Allner, who holds a place in a curious corner of the competition’s history for having played every minute of its longest ever tie.

Jarrod Bowen (pictured) and his West Ham team-mates will be heading to Aggborough

He was up front for Alvechurch against Oxford City, in November 1971, a fourth qualifying round tie finally decided by a fifth replay.

‘We were all on first name terms by the end,’ says Allner. ‘Our manager had run out of things to say. He just said, “Go out and give them some tonk and bottle”. It was reduced to that.’ 

Alvechurch finally won 1-0 at Villa Park and Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis appeared in the dressing room with champagne.

‘I love the FA Cup and what it can do for small clubs,’ says Allner. ‘Just look at Marine and Tottenham last year to see what it can spark. It introduces a new generation of fans to the club.

‘Maybe this tie for Kidderminster will remind the new generation what our team achieved.’

Back in 1993-94, Kidderminster beat Chesham, Kettering and Woking to set up a third round trip to neighbours Birmingham, then struggling in the second tier, as they are now. 

Current West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold then owned Birmingham, Barry Fry was manager and Karren Brady had just been made managing director.

West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold owned Birmingham when the Harriers faced them in 1994

‘There was a BBC programme called Inside Out and they were filming behind the scenes at Birmingham,’ says Allner, born in the city and raised a Blues fan.

‘I don’t think it was shown until afterwards but I remember a scene where Karren Brady found out they were playing Kidderminster and the look on her face said, “Who are they?”. It was a great draw. We had 5,000 fans in the Tilton Road End, where I grew up watching the Blues.’

Kidderminster fought back from a goal down to win 2-1, the winner a 30-yard Jon Purdie screamer.

‘The players ran to the fans at the end,’ says the former Harriers boss. ‘I was on the bench when suddenly the chairman went past me in a blur, running to join them. 

‘We ended up celebrating on Blues turf, in a bar with a TV in the corner and every quarter of an hour or so the sports headlines would come on with our game. The Blues supporters realised who we were and were brilliant.’

The game between Kidderminster Harriers and West Ham will be shown live on TV

Next, at Aggborough, came Preston, managed by John Beck and captained by Moyes — now West Ham manager. ‘They came to look at the pitch the night before the game,’ says Allner.

It was frozen but had thawed by the time the game kicked off and Preston slipped up.

Delwyn Humphreys hit the only goal to clinch a date with West Ham, managed by Billy Bonds, who had made an impression on his previous visit to Aggborough.

‘They’d been down to a Youth Cup tie a few years earlier,’ says Allner. ‘John Lyall was manager and he was there and Billy Bonds was in charge of the youth team.

‘They beat us but they weren’t happy. We could hear Billy raising his voice in the dressing room saying they’d still got a lot to learn, that sort of thing. When they left we found the door had been knocked off its hinges.’

Back in the FA Cup fifth round, Bonds’ team featured England internationals Alvin Martin and Clive Allen. Eight thousand crammed into Aggborough, the capacity boosted by a temporary stand. Lee Chapman settled it with a second-half header 

‘I wanted to speak to Lee because we’d played a couple of games up front together for Stafford Rangers when he was just leaving school and his dad Roy was manager,’ says Allner. 

‘He was talking about going to university at the time but Stoke wanted him and he went to them.

Allner believes when you get a draw like this, it goes crazy ahead of a clash with the Hammers

‘There was a moment after the game when he was at one end of the dressing room corridor and I was at the other when somebody whipped me off to do a piece with Grandstand. He said, “I’ll see you after”, but it never happened.’

West Ham lost to Luton in the quarter-finals and Kidderminster won the Conference but were denied promotion. Northampton Town stayed up instead. 

They eventually made it into the Football League in 2000, by which time Allner’s 15-year tenure was over and Jan Molby was manager, returning to non-league five years later.

There they have remained but always carry a giant-killing threat in the FA Cup, as Reading discovered in the last round. Moyes will not need a reminder. 

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