Matt Healey continues the series.
Ian Benbow was born in Hereford on the 9th January 1969. He grew up in Leominster and played for his local side. He joined Hereford initially as a YTS player.
He made his league debut under the management of John Newman in an away game at Carlisle United on the 31st August 1987. He scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Stockport County on the 23rd October 1987. John Newman had just departed as manager and the former two time European Cup winner Ian Bowyer was now in charge at Edgar Street.
Benbow reflects on the former Nottingham Forest player “Oh Ian Bowyer, what a challenging man, very unpredictable. He knew what he wanted, but some days you didn’t know what he was going to do, but I enjoyed working with him”
Benbow’s best season at Edgar Street was the 1989/1990 campaign. He opened the scoring in a 3-0 win over Maidstone United on the 2nd September 1989.
Hereford were a cup team that season, they reached the 4th round of the FA Cup, the Quarter Finals of the Leyland DAF Cup and were the winners of the Welsh Cup.
In the 3rd round of the Welsh Cup Hereford beat Connah’s Quay Nomads 9-0. Benbow enjoyed the early rounds of the competition “It was good for me. I was at the start of my career and a 9-0 win over someone will always breed confidence across the team”
Benbow also started in the 4th round clash against Manchester United which Hereford lost 1-0.
Hereford would face Wrexham on the 13th May 1990 in the Welsh Cup Final. The game was played at Cardiff Arms Park. Hereford would win 2-1 with Benbow scoring the winning goal. I asked him his memories of the occasion.
“The morning is impossible to recall, as all I can remember is the goal, It was such a poor shot, everyone who wants to score a goal in a cup final would love the shot to go in the top corner, I think it bounced four times before it when. Steve Devine crossed the ball in, Russell Bradley knocked it down, my shape was good, but it was bounce bounce bounce until it went in”
The party that evening was legendary “The celebrations were great, I was absolutely shattered, I went home to Leominster and spent the evening with the people I grew up with, everybody I knew was in the pub, it meant the world to me and was brilliant for the community spirit around the town”
Bowyer would depart Edgar Street a few weeks later ” That was disappointing as we developed a good relationship, he was a driver and motivator, I was learning a lot, the manner in the way he left wasn’t good, Gary (his son) went on to great things, the average age of the squad was early 20’s, which kept together would only have got better”
Colin Addison would take over as Hereford manager and Benbow only made one substitute football league appearance during the 1990/1991 season.
At the time it hurt Benbow massively “As I’ve got older, I’ve got diplomatic in life, Colin had a different way to working than Ian, he wanted more experience, the average age of the squad increased, Colin chose his team and I wasn’t part of it”
Benbow would be farmed out to GM Vauxhall Conference side Telford United. Initially on loan, but he then made the move to the Bucks Head permanent around Christmas 1990.
He then got a job as a lorry driver and played for Telford part time. He was a two goal hero in a 2-1 win at home to Stoke in the FA Cup in November 1991. Benbow was featured on Midlands Today the following evening.
“It was a great nights work, we drew away at Stoke and bought them back for a replay, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Telford and scored plenty of goals, but somedays I wish the success I achieved at Telford was at Hereford as they were my local club and I could have celebrated with my friends and family alongside me”
Spells at Merthyr, Newport, Yeovil, Newtown and Ton Pentre followed. Benbow though would retire from the game fairly early.
“I came to a conclusion that I wasn’t going to be a high level professional player, at Hereford players like Mel Pejic were coming to the end of their playing days and they needed to focus on a new career, I thought I needed something else, I needed something stable, at Hereford we went to the schools and I enjoyed working with the youngsters, so ended up getting involved in that”
In 2013 a trip to the hospital would change Benbow’s life dramatically. ” I went to the hospital as had a pain in my foot, I thought it was gout, so went to A&e and they checked me over.
They thought i was having a heart attack. I was diagnosed with sudden death syndrome, similar to what caused Fabrice Muamba to retire. I went to see a cardiologist, who put a defibrillator in my chest. I’m glad he did as eight months later I collapsed at work and “died”, the defibrillator bought me back within 3 seconds, it made me appreciate life a lot more”
I asked Benbow why a former professional footballer would have this condition “It was hereditary, I lived my entire football career playing with it, I didn’t realise that I was walking a tightrope when playing, it was nice not to know then as I would have instantly of had to have retired from the game. Finding out later meant that I could get all my children screened for it”
Benbow now lives and works in the Merthyr Tydfil area. “I run a company called Case UK Limited, we have a ream of services which we knit together to help people in Merthyr, my job is to support youngsters that are coming through, Merthyr was featured on a television programme on Channel 4, which was disappointing, as they highlight a few certain individuals, but for every one person identified, there are 300 or so that turn their life around in a positive way”
Photos supplied by Ron Parrott