Matt Healey continues the series.
Joel Edwards was born in Hereford on the 18th August 1991. He is one of a select number of players who have played for both Hereford United and Hereford FC. There’s Edwards, plus Ryan Green, Rob Purdie, James McQuilkin and a few more, but enough of that lets run with the interview, he told me how it all started footballing wise.
“I was at St Marys School and played for FC Phoenix. I then played for Herefordshire County and the School of Excellence. I then moved on and played academy football for Aston Villa and Cardiff, but ended up at Holme Lacy college when I was 16.
The former Hereford United player Gary Stevens ran the football side of Holme Lacy college and there was a connection with Hereford United where they would be the Hereford youth team.
Edwards and Tyler Weir would sign one year professional contracts ahead of the 2009/2010 season. Unfortunately Edwards wouldn’t make a Football League appearance. “I think at the start I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, I was a Hereford fan as a kid, but I enjoyed the regular training and I had only just turned 18 when I signed professional forms, so it was a good learning curve for me”
Edwards would be released at the end of the season. During the previous 2008/2009 campaign Hereford had been relegated from League One and Graham Turner had handed the managerial reigns over to John Trewick.
Hereford finished the 2009/2010 season in 16th position in League Two. Trewick had been sacked a couple of months earlier and Turner returned to the dugout to secure Hereford’s Football League safety. Turner himself would sell the club and take over the hot seat at his former club Shrewsbury Town where John Trewick would reunite with him again as coach.
Edwards made the move across the A49 to join Westfields. “Graham Turner told me my contract wasn’t being renewed at the end of the season, so Sean Edwards got in touch and I had a few seasons over at Westfields”
Edwards would be re-signed by Hereford United for the 2013/2014 season. “Martin Foyle got in contact and I signed a full time deal. The club were in a financial mess and they needed a couple of local lads to make up the squad, Sam Gwynne had come back too”
Edwards made his Hereford United league debut coming on as a sub in a 2-2 draw away at Hyde on the 17th August 2013 “It was around my birthday and instead of getting a birthday card, the referee gave me a yellow card, but it was great to make my debut”
Edwards played a handful of games during the 2013/2014 season and was a regular on the subs bench. The financial landscape at the club was extremely bad, by March 2014 the management team of Martin Foyle & Andy Porter had left Edgar Street. They were exasperated by the financial situation and with Hereford plummeting down the table. Youth team manager Peter Beadle would take caretaker charge with his long term colleague Steve Jenkins.
“We had a really good youth squad and they had a good run in the cup. They had been knocked out by Manchester City. Jarrod Bowen and Billy Murphy were two really good players. Beadle had a good relationship with the lads and by bringing in Jarrod and Billy into the first team it seemed to give the squad a bit more energy”
Hereford would perform a great escape and stayed up on the final day with a 2-1 away at Aldershot on the 26th April 2014. Edwards was on the substitutes bench that memorable afternoon. “That was an awesome day, the scenes in the away end were fantastic, it was great being part of the squad and the celebrations will live long in the memory”
Sadly, it was all in vain. The Hereford Chairman David Keyte sold the club to Tommy Agombar. The Essex businessman then failed to pay a bond which resulted in Hereford being demoted two divisions to the Southern League Premier. “I was owed quite a bit of money in wages, it was all unclear what was going on at Hereford so I went back to Westfields for a season”
Hereford United were liquidated on the 19th December 2014.
In Hereford a phoenix club was being born. Hereford FC was created from the Ashes of Hereford United and Pete Beadle would be the club’s first manager. Edwards was announced as one of the first signings. “Beadle had watched me a couple of times at Westfields and knew about me from Hereford United, he called me up and said he wanted to sign me. After a couple of calls he said he wanted to give me some more responsibility, which I later found out would be the captaincy. I wanted to work with him again so I signed for Hereford FC”
Hereford FC played their first league game at home to Dunkirk on the 8th August 2015. The Bulls would win 4-1 in glorious sunshine “It was surreal, we had over 4,000 inside the ground, we never got that when we played in the National League which was four league’s higher”
Hereford had a bit of a shaky start to life in the Midland League and lost three of the first six games. I asked Edwards if there was an element of panic “No, not at all, we had a good team, it just needed to gel. Beadle bought in Ryan Green and Jamie Willets and that shored up the defence”
Hereford then went on an unbelievable run of wins “It was a great feeling, we were never over confident or cocky, but we just had a great team spirit and played some brilliant football”
Hereford played Camberley on the 20th February 2016 in a FA Vase Quarter Final at Edgar Street. Hereford would win 3-2 “That was one of my favourite Hereford games. It was deep into extra time and I got the assist to set up John Mills for the winner, my legs were tired, but I broke through and managed to get in a cross, I thought the ball was going to go out for a goal kick, but despite heavy legs I got the ball across to Mills who did the rest, there were absolute scenes when the goal went in, I remember we were all slipping over in the mud celebrating with the fans”
Edwards has huge respect for the record Hereford FC goal scorer “Without a doubt John Mills was the best finisher I ever played with”
It was Salisbury next in the Semi Final “I don’t remember much about the 1st leg, but we won 1-0, we went down there for the 2nd leg and I remember that a lot more. We won 2-1 on the day and my family were in the crowd. The celebrations were brilliant, I remember my mate Jake Morris running on the pitch and giving me a hug”
Despite involvement in the FA Vase, Hereford were also trying to win the Midland League, there was no insurance policy of the play offs. Hereford needed to finish in 1st position to gain promotion. Alvechurch were pushing Hereford close “Full credit to Alvechurch they had a real go at it and it wasn’t towards the end of the season that we achieved promotion, we beat Heanor 8-0 and by then we knew we were in the driving seat, we won at Coventry Sphinx a couple of days later and it was secured.
That was the night of the legendary D.I.S.C.O chant being born. I asked Edwards how it all started “I used to sing it with my mates on the Meadow End and for some reason when we were on the balcony I started singing it, there were loads of Hereford fans in the car park that night celebrating, those were amazing times”
Hereford had won the Midland League, they had also won the Midland League Cup and the HFA Cup, it was down to Wembley for the FA Vase final. Morpeth stood in the way of it being a perfect season.
“I nearly missed out on the final. I had an ankle injury in the days leading up to the game. I had an injection on the day to make sure I played. It’s all a bit blurry, we went down a couple of days before and trained, the build up was amazing, there were so many Hereford fans in the corner. (Rob) Purdie put us 1-0 up and it seemed that we would win. I still can’t put my finger on what happened in the 2nd half, we were a fit team, but Wembley seemed to sap the energy out of us, it was a hot day and Morpeth had soaked up our initial pressure, in the end they did a job on us”
Hereford would lose 4-1, but Hereford had achieved the main aim which was promotion. It would be the Southern League South West the following season.
“Ability wise it was a better league, but it wasn’t as physical as the Midland League”
Hereford would win promotion and would lose only one league game all season. It was a different type of campaign as the club played about 15% less games than the season before, promotion was achieved at Salisbury in March, but the club was knocked out of both cup competitions by the previous October.
I asked Edwards which of his two seasons was the most enjoyable “Winning promotion in both of them was great, but the 1st was probably the best as it was a new club and everything seemed so fresh, getting to Wembley was fantastic and Alvechurch pushed as close, we didn’t have anybody challenge us the 2nd season”
Pete Beadle would shock Hereford supporters when he didn’t offer Edwards a new contract ahead of the 2017/2018 season. I asked him if he had any doubt he would be released. “No, not at all, sometimes me and Beadle didn’t see eye to eye, but that’s football, we had an ok relationship, probably not as good as some of the other players, but still ok, I remember we all had to go to the ground one evening to see him, some players were going to be offered contracts, others were going to be released, it was a huge shock when he told me that he wasn’t going to keep me on, I was absolutely gutted”
Supporters voiced their anger on social media over Edwards’s departure. Beadle bought in James Bowen from Cheltenham as left back, but he departed for Solihull Moors. Cameron Pring was then signed on loan from Bristol City.
Edwards would then join Cardiff Met University in the Welsh Premier League “Steve Jenkins had connections down there and I got fixed up with a scholarship. Pete Beadle tweeted me congratulations, so there are no hard feelings, we speak occasionally and met up at Rob Purdie’s testimonial a couple of years ago”
At Cardiff Met, Edwards played in the Europa League, he was also called up to the Welsh C squad. “I had a great three years down there, the games were shown regularly on S4C and it was good for my career”
Edwards returned to Westfields in the summer of 2020 “I love it there, I played with Phil Glover and Scott Jackson who are now part of the management team and they are great lads”
Being a local lad, Edwards is an extremely popular player in the city and is delighted with the progress Hereford FC are making “I always keep an eye on the results, and the current management team of Josh Gowling and Steve Burr are doing a superb job, they have got the fans on side, which I don’t think the previous managers between them and Beadle had achieved”
Edwards currently runs a company called First Step Footy “The Covid situation hasn’t helped but it’s football coaching for kids aged from 2 and a half to 7. You can see more of what they do below.
Photos supplied by Bulls News, Will Cheshire and Westfields FC