ROB Purdie returns to Hereford United today with Darlington for the first time since leaving the club where he made his Mr Versatile' name during five years at Edgar Street.

He was a regular for most of his time at Hereford after manager Graham Turner signed him in 2002 from home-town team Leicester City.

In three of his five campaigns at Edgar Street, Purdie played over 40 games, missing just two matches last season, which was Hereford's first back in the league.

He was even made captain last season, as well as the appointed penalty taker, scoring eight from the spot.

But one thing he struggled to do was hold down one position in the team, moving around to fill gaps in the team which earned him his versatile tag.

Despite classing himself as a central midfielder, Purdie played all over the pitch during his five years at Hereford, which included most of last season at leftback.

In fact, had Hereford's form not nose-dived towards the end of last season Purdie would have left the club having played in every outfield position.

The Bulls had little riding on their trip to Torquay, who had already been relegated, but Turner viewed the game as important.

And that put the kibosh on Purdie's plans.

He explained: "I wanted to play centre-back and then I would have been able to leave after playing in every position.

"But we'd been on such a bad run that I didn't dare ask the gaffer.

"If we'd been doing well and were about to finish in mid-table then I would have done it. I even heard a rumour that the keeper had an outfield player's jersey ready.

"But we only won one of the last few games and if we'd lost that last game we would have been in training the next day, even though it was the last game of the season."

Purdie's flexible trend has continued since his summer move to Quakers, having made 15 appearances in three positions: right-back, left-back and leftwing.

Neil Austin's spell on the sidelines ensured a handful of games at right-back and last week he was left-back, but Tim Ryan is expected to return from injury today.

That means Purdie could find himself either on the bench or on the left-wing, but he would prefer to be in central midfield.

He said: "With Martin Smith out, I played on the left when it did not work out with certain players the gaffer brought in.

"And at one point three rightbacks - Neil Austin, Scott Wiseman and Patrick Collins - were all injured, so I had to fill in there.

Then the left-back was injured so I played there. It's worked for me because I don't think I would have played as much as I have done if I couldn't play in different positions.

"But I would like to hold down one position."

When everyone's fit, I can really push for that midfield position and hopefully take my chance."

Purdie concedes he is not sure how the Hereford supporters will treat him today, but after playing almost 200 games for the club hopes to receive a positive response.

He has already been in touch with a former Hereford teammate, but admits he is surprised at the Bulls being as high as sixth in the table.

"I was there for five years so it was like a second home for me so I'm looking forward to going back and to see what kind of reception I get," said Purdie, who says there is a huge difference in size between his former and current clubs.

"Usually when you move to a club in the same division it can be hostile, but we'll have to see.

"Hopefully the fans will think I gave five years good service and only moved to further my career.

Hopefully they'll look at it like that and I'll get a decent reception.

"I spoke to one of the Hereford lads on Monday. I keep in touch with a lot of them. They've done really well. I look at their team and I don't think they're going to stay up there, but if they can get into the play-offs that would be great for them.

"The two clubs are completely different. At Hereford you've got the gaffer, his assistant, the physio, the weights coach and then three people working in an office. They're the only people you ever see. When you come to Darlington there are that many people working in reception!

"My girlfriend came to one of the pre-season games, saw the club and said I can see why you wanted to come here'."