Hereford United are on the brink of another glory run and victory over Stockport County on Saturday could see them given the chance to ruffle a few fine feathers. NIGEL HEINS recalls giantkilling feats - and the extra ingredients that help create an atmosphere to make soccer dandies wobble at the knees.

ARGUABLY the greatest giantkillers of all time, Hereford United are just 90 minutes away from another possible pop at the big boys.

If they beat Stockport County on Saturday, their name will go into the hat for the third round of the FA Cup along with the likes of Newcastle, West Ham, QPR and Millwall, who have all left Edgar Street with red faces after shock defeats.

And in the draw, too, will be clubs such as Arsenal, Spurs and Leicester City, who escaped from Hereford with pink complexions for replays.

Alongside the glory was always the fun. Who will ever forget the parachutists landing on the pitch before the humbling of Newcastle? And the fine, fearless Freetown Kudos, huge and haughty, ambling unflinchingly before the baying Spurs fans?

The first pre-match nonsense I remember was several decades ago at St George's Lane when United tanned Worcester City in the FA Cup. Three things impressed this then young fan.

One was how close the wall was behind the goal, another was how someone as bald as Cyril Beech could be young enough to score goals and the third was the appearance of the swede on the centre spot. "Worshipping the swede" before big matches and playing out the belief that the vegetable being kicked into the net was an augury of a United victory has long fascinated locals - and a wider audience.

United have an enviable reputation in the romance of the FA Cup - far more impressive than many so-called bigger clubs. Joe Royle was once asked who he fancied his Manchester City side to be pitted against and he replied: "Anyone - as long as it's not Hereford away".

And with those giantkillings has often been the razzmattaz. Before Hereford beat Hartlepool in a televised cup game, we had jugglers, a man on stilts and even a giant inflatable goalkeeper.

After the match, a Radio Five Live commentator said on air to a Hereford player he was interviewing: "You certainly know how to stage an FA Cup match here, don't you?"

But not long ago it was decided to mash the swede and banish it to the compost heap. Apparently, the tradition was abandoned because some supporters felt it gave United's following the appearance of being yokels.

So what? If teams from the industrial north or smooth south travel to Edgar Street in the belief they are to be bellowed at by fans taking a break from tossing bales of straw as if they were feathers and carrying sheep to market on their shoulders, then where's the harm?

They know full well that Edgar Street is a land where giants fear to tread so let's create such an atmosphere, pungent with the traditions and rural gimmicks that gee the fans up into urging the players into scalp-taking.

Otherwise, why not abandon the name "Meadow End", too, because of its country connotations and re-name it the "Pizza Hut End".

Against Boston United in the FA Cup last season there was no swede, no bull - and no real atmosphere.

Henry Winter, writing in the Daily Telegraph in 1996 after United had drawn 1-1 with Spurs, summed up the heady Edgar Street atmosphere that day.

"Tottenham Hotspur behaved like typical townies at the weekend. They went out to the country, saw a bull the size of Pavarotti patrolling a muddy field, lost their composure, were given a good chasing by the locals and were thankful to return to London in one piece.

"There is nothing like the FA Cup to test the chains of football's feudalism".

And after the game, Spurs manager Gerry Francis said: "I can't remember whether I've ever been there before but I don't want to go back there again."

Visiting teams and supporters should always be given a hospitable welcome to Hereford but there's no harm in spooking them with our weird and wonderful rustic rituals.

Let's send out an SOS - Save Our Swede!