During the early 1990’s, and on a hiatus after leaving Coventry City, John Sillett visited the USA on holiday. He was soon to take over as Hereford United manager for a second spell.
Sillett took in some football and watched an international between USA and Bermuda. Two teenagers in the Bermudan team took his eye, Meshach Wade and Kentoine “Jed” Jennings.
Meshach said: “John Sillett watched us play and asked Mark Trott, who at the time was a Bermudan football agent, if he could take me and Jed on trial. We impressed and were offered the chance to move to Edgar Street.”
Peter Heritage formed a decent partnership up front with Simon Brain that season, he told me “It took a while for them to get use to the english weather, they both wore tracksuits to pre-season training, but they settled in very quickly, and it was a pleasure to have played alongside them”
Back then, all football in Bermuda was on amateur or part time basis, so this was going to be a huge jump for two teenagers to move to Hereford, and join the lower echelons of English professional football which was a very physical game back then.
The pair officially signed for Hereford in August 1991, but work permit issues delayed things, and subsequently their debuts took a while. Jed came on as a sub against Chesterfield in a 2-0 defeat on 26th October 1991,
Meshach’s debut was in a 3-2 defeat at Maidstone on 2nd November 1991. Yes, the one where the Maidstone goalkeeper Iain Hesford scored the winning goal!
Around that era, a number of Bermudan’s came over to England to ply their trade. Shaun Goater signed for Rotherham, and later enjoyed great success at Manchester City, while Kyle Lightbourne had just signed for Scarborough.
Meshach told me: “Myself and Jed were both homesick the first year, but adapted in the second season. We lived in a house close to the football ground. Back then there was no Internet or social media, so keeping in contact with friends and family was expensive and tough.”
The lads though did embrace the city of Hereford. Skipper Derek Hall remembered them fondly: “They were really good lads, and good players,” he said.
“They made plenty of friends and enjoyed a night or two in the Crystal Rooms”
Meshach had a profitable run in the side in early 1992, starting seven out of the nine games from mid-January to the end of February. Included in that batch was a game against Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup 4th Round match in January 1992 where nearly 25,000 packed into the City Ground. He was in no doubt what the highlight of his Hereford career was.
“I played well against them, Forest had Roy Keane, Stuart Pearce and Des Walker in their line-up that Sunday afternoon,” he said.
Jon Narbett was at the time scoring plenty of goals from midfield. He currently works in finance in Chicago, the squad enjoyed the company of the two Bermudan’s. Narbett speaks happily of a an early memory of the duo.
“They were two very young lads living over the road in one of the terraced house’s near Edgar Street, on their first visit to Tesco they bought a load of groceries, they thought they could take the trolley home with them…it stayed in the kitchen for about three months,” said Narbett.
The 1991/1992 season had started well, and after beating York City 2-1 Hereford topped the league in mid-September. Unfortunately, they fell away , and the season was a disappointing one with Hereford finishing 17th.
Silent departed in April 1992 and Greg Downs, who was then player coach, became player manager.
Meshach and Jed were both involved in the first few matches of the 1992/1993 season, in fact Meshach was one of seven Hereford players who wasn’t sent off against Northampton in the infamous 1-1 draw.
Gareth Davies was a first year professional during the 1992/1993 season, he was a similar age to the pair. Gareth said “My mum took a real shine to them, she used to make them Victoria Sponge’s, and they loved her Welsh Cake’s. We played up north midweek, and I wasn’t able to get transport back home, the lads offered me to sleep in their spare room , as soon as i go there, i realised their spare room was the living room floor covered with piles of clothes. They were great lads, with fantastic personalities”
During their time at Hereford, the two players were called up for international duty, and became only the second and third players in Hereford’s history to play for a country. Back then, the only previous Hereford United international was Brian Evans who turned out for Wales against Poland in a World Cup qualifier in 1973.
During their stint at Edgar Street, Bermuda took part in the qualifying matches for the USA 1994 World Cup.
“Inside Edgar Street” was a feature in the club programme, and in December 1992 the duo were spotlighted. Jed said at the time: “The standard was very high, it was a thrill to play against players of such a good standard.” Bermuda had faced the likes of El Salvador, Jamaica and Canada in the qualifying stages with crowds of over 40,000.
The Bermudan FA were sponsoring their wages, so Jed and Meshach had two months away from Edgar Street during the autumn of 1992 on international duty, incidentally the money saved allowed some manoeuvre in Greg Downs’s budget. This saw Marcus Browning come in on loan for a successful spell from Bristol Rovers when the lads returned that winter they only appeared sparsely. They both made substitute appearances at Scarborough in a 2-0 defeat on 6th February 1993. This would be Meshach’s final Hereford United game. Jed’s farewell was an appearance off the bench two weeks later in another 2-0 defeat at Lincoln City.
They quietly left Hereford in early March 1993. Meshach said: “Greg Downs wanted to bring in some older heads.” Downs’ programme notes in the 1-0 defeat against Crewe a week later gave another angle.
Downs said at the time: “We recently released Meshach Wade and Jed Jennings, since they’ve been over here, they have been no trouble, but we felt they hadn’t adjusted to the hurly burly of the Football League, by releasing them now it gives them a chance to find another club.”
Maybe Downs was thinking of the fact they would be away for parts of the season on international duty. Their contracts would be up at the end of the season. It was documented his budget was being stretched to the limit, and with Football League crowds regularly below 2,000, money was extremely tight at Edgar Street. Aldershot and Maidstone had recently gone bust. English football in the lower professional leagues didn’t have the TV money it does now.
Meshach though tried to resurrect his career in England.
“I came back to England with Kyle Lightbourne who had left Scarborough and we trialled at Walsall,” he said.
“Kyle eventually signed for the Saddlers, scored a load of goals and a couple of years later moved to Coventry City in the Premier League. I was waiting for a new work permit, but it fell through, so i went back home.”
Meshach continued playing football up until 2008. He was part of the American indoor soccer league from 1999-2003, a motorcycle accident in 2009 sadly ended his career, but he now works for the Bermudan government.
Jed returned home immediately and joined Vasco De Gama amongst others. He continued playing until the early 2010’s, winding up his football career with Prospect United. He currently earns a living working for a telephone company.
Through the power of Facebook, both lads are now members of the Hereford United group, and are both planning a visit to Hereford next year on what would be the 30th anniversary of their arrival. It would be great to see them back at Edgar Street.
*Many thanks to the following for help on the article, Ron Parrott, Jon Narbett, Derek Hall, Peter Heritage & Gareth Davies*