Former Newcastle player Malcolm Macdonald remembers Ronnie Radford
‘It is something that will stay with you forever’: Former Newcastle United player Malcolm Macdonald remembers Ronnie Radford after being on the receiving end of his long-range screamer in the FA Cup for Hereford United
- Ronnie Radford, scorer of one of the FA Cup’s most famous goals, died this week
- Radford scored the goal for non-league side Hereford United against Newcastle
- Malcolm Macdonald was part of the Newcastle United team that played that day
- Macdonald remembers the famous game very well and shared his memories
When Ronnie Radford died this week aged 79, the obituaries did not so much tell the story of his life, but more so one afternoon. One kick, even.
His long-range screamer for non-League Hereford United in a 2-1 giant-killing of First Division Newcastle United, in the FA Cup Third Round of 1972, is arguably the most iconic goal in the competition’s history.
Every January for half a century it has been replayed on our TV screens, fondly remembered across the land. Except on Tyneside, that is.
Ronnie Radford will go down in FA Cup folklore for his memorable goal against Newcastle
Malcolm Macdonald was part of the Newcastle team that day on a bog of a pitch at Edgar Street. For the former England striker, the past few days have provoked contrasting emotions.
‘Ronnie has had some lovely coverage, bless him,’ Macdonald tells Sportsmail. ‘I have to say, it was a fabulous strike, I just wish it had been against someone else! He was responsible for causing one of the greatest embarrassments I and my team-mates ever suffered.’
Macdonald, nicknamed Supermac, had headed Newcastle into an 82nd-minute lead when, just three minutes later, Radford – a 28-year-old joiner – collected the ball 35 yards from goal.
‘Watch the footage back, who is the Newcastle player right next to him?’ asks Macdonald.
‘Yes! I was coming back at full steam, on the verge of making a tackle. All of a sudden, he’s pulled his right foot back and whacked it. I was right behind the strike and, as soon as it left his boot, I thought, ‘Don’t even bother diving for that, Willie (McFaul), you’ll never get it’. It went like an Exocet missile, right in the top corner.’
Malcolm Macdonald was part of the Newcastle team that played in that famous FA cup game
Ricky George scored Hereford’s winner in extra-time, but Radford’s is the goal that went down in folklore. It went down like a lead balloon back in Newcastle.
Brian Viner’s excellent tribute to Radford on these pages on Thursday revealed that the Cup hero stopped off with his wife and two children for some chicken and chips after the game, before watching Match of the Day with friends.
‘We certainly didn’t watch Match of the Day!’ says Macdonald. ‘We didn’t get back to Newcastle until midnight. We weren’t sure about going out in public either, so we just went to bed. We hadn’t been home for so long.’
It is often forgotten that their replay was postponed three times – they had drawn 2-2 at St James’ Park after the initial tie was also postponed – and Newcastle stayed at a hotel in Worcester for more than a week. They eventually played on Fourth Round Saturday.
Macdonald recalls: ‘The whole thing down in Hereford was a complete farce. It just kept on getting postponed. We even travelled to Huddersfield to play an away game in the League and then went back to Worcester. We were forever having to go to Cecil Gs, a shop in the town, to buy underpants and shirts. In the end, they covered the pitch in straw for a few days to warm it up. We played on a quagmire. It was impossible to pass the ball.’
Radford has since become synonymous with the FA Cup following his goal against Newcastle
With one of the game’s first pieces of quality, Viv Busby crossed for Macdonald to score. ‘We thought, ‘Right, let’s get rid of these f*****s, for heaven’s sake. We won’t lose it from here’. But we did, to two wonderful goals. We sat in the dressing-room and never said a word. Whatever anyone had tried to say, it would be wrong. We just wanted to get home and move on.’
Move on? If only.
‘Ronnie’s goal has to be the most played piece of football film ever,’ says Macdonald, now 72. ‘On Third Round Saturday, the one thing you knew the BBC would show would be it. Every year, without fail. I used to think, ‘Haven’t they got anything else?’.’
You would think Macdonald would do his best to avoid all exposure to Hereford. Not so. On more than one occasion he has returned to speak at the club’s annual dinner or events in the city. And here is something remarkable, he did not see Radford ever again.
‘I always asked about him every time I went back but, because of health issues, he could never make it. They told me he never liked the publicity after his goal, it just wasn’t for him.’
Macdonald, pictured with Newcastle, would later go on to manage Fulham against Hereford
Macdonald went on to manage Fulham in the early 80s, and he is laughing as he adds: ‘Would you believe we were drawn away to Hereford in the FA Cup… and yes, they did it to me again, 1-0! Yet I kept on going back years later, I must enjoy pain.’
So, does Macdonald ever reflect on that fabled day 50 years ago with any degree of fondness? ‘No! It was the worst nightmare of all nightmares,’ he says.
It is forever destined to be a recurring one. A young John Motson was doing a trial commentary for the BBC and his brilliant calling of Radford’s goal won him a permanent gig.
‘Whenever I see Motty, we always end up talking about Hereford,’ says Macdonald. ‘If you were there, it is something that will stay with you forever.’
If this week proves anything, it will forever stay with Radford.
Hereford United fans paid tribute to Radford before their FA Cup match at Edgar Street
Part of the fans’ display included John Motson’s commentary from the huge FA cup upset
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