Matt Healey continues the series with another local lad who made it into the Hereford United first team.

Matt Beale was born in Hereford on the 20th October 1981 and was involved in the Hereford United School of Excellence at an early age.

Hereford United Under 13 Squad 1994

Beale tells me “I remember being 14-15 and being invited by Hereford coach Keith Downing to join the youth team at a game at Villa Park, it was a natural progression to being a YTS and I signed a two year contract in 1998”

Due to Hereford’s money issues the YTS players were close to the first team “The club was always struggling financially and the squad was small, so we would join in training. I remember watching the 1999 documentary recently and looking back Graham Turner did a great job keeping it all together”

Gavin Mahon had been player of the year for the 1997/1998 season and signed a new contract to stay at the club. Beale remembers the future Premier League player with admiration “He was a different class, you could never get the ball off him in training, it was no surprise he went on to have a brilliant career”

I asked Beale what life as a YTS player was like “We all had our jobs. I used to clean the boots of Chris Lane, Matt Cross and Gavin Mahon, we would clean the gym as well. I remember one day the Stadium Manager (Colin Oliver) had us all digging trenches behind the Meadow End, it was being filled in with cement and we all got roped into helping, which looking back now was pretty unbelievable”

Hereford United coach Keith Downing was a big influence on Beale’s career “It was a really sad day when he left, he told us YTS players in the boot room that he was off to Molineux, he told me to keep my head down and that I had the ability to play in the Championship, he left Edgar Street to take a job at Wolves and we missed him badly”

Hereford United 1999-2000 Team Photograph
Back Row L2R – Tony James, Paul Fewings, Leroy May, Rob Elmes, Andy Quy, James Wall, Chris Lane, Paul Parry, Matt Pitt
Middle Row L2R – Matt Beale, Craig Hanson, John Snape, Matt Clarke, Steve Piearce, Gavin Williams, Mark Taylor, Steve Warren
Front Row L2R – Ryan Pendrey, Ian Rodgerson, Tony Ford, Graham Turner, Simon Thompson, Ian Wright, John Shirley

Not many Hereford will fans will recall Beale’s debut as it was played in an eminently forgettable 2-0 loss away at Dover Athletic at their Crabble ground in the depths of Kent on the 25th September 1999, he came on as a 79th minute substitute for John Snape “I remember Graham Turner told me to get ready and I came on to make my debut. Chris Lane told me to do what I do in training and replicate it on the pitch, I ended up getting injured in the game which was the story of my career and I was out for the next few weeks and lost some momentum”

Graham Turner’s reluctance to make substitutions, which didn’t really change until Richard O’Kelly’s arrival in 2002 was always a bone of contention amongst Hereford fans and the YTS lads felt the pain “What would frustrate us was that during our 2nd season and the increase of subs from 3 to 5 there usually would be at least one YTS player on the bench and if we were comfortably winning, or had no chance of coming back we still wouldn’t get on. I came on once and John Shirley maybe twice and that was it, looking back there would have been no harm in throwing one of us on in the last 15 minutes to get a bit of experience in the first team”

In Beale’s 2nd year at Edgar Street his fellow YTS colleagues were Lee Ruddall, Matthew Pitt, Ryan Pendrey, Steve Warren and John Shirley “Every away game two of us YTS lads would go with the first team squad and most of the season at least one of us would make the subs bench. I missed out on the Leicester away game in the FA Cup, but we all turned up for home games and I was at Edgar Street for the first tie which was 0-0, we did so well holding a Premier League team to a draw”

Hereford United YTS Players – 1999 Matt Pitt, Matt Beale, Steve Warren, Ryan Pendrey, John Shirley

Beale would sign a full time contract ahead of the 2000/2001 campaign “I just signed the deal that Graham Turner put in front of me, John Shirley was kept on too and I was involved in most of the pre-season games, I remember we beat Leicester City 1-0 in a friendly and Paul Parry scored the winning goal”

Hereford United 2000/2001 Team Photograph
Back Row L2R ‚Äď Paul Sturgess, Matt Clarke, Chris Lane, Ian Wright, Scott Cooksey, James Wall, Paul Parry, Tony James, Matt Gardiner.
Midde Row L2R ‚Äď John Shirley, Matt Beale, John Snape, Michael McIndoe, Gavin Williams, Steve Piearce, Craig Hanson
Front Row L2R ‚Äď Tony Ford, Ian Rodgerson, Steve Bull, Graham Turner, Phil Robinson, Simon Thompson

Beale though would get frustrated about the lack of first team opportunities “As soon as the season started I wasn’t making the squad. I always seemed to be the 17th man, then I kept getting niggly injuries in reserve games and kept missing out. I just wanted to play. I kept hearing these great things about me from Graham Turner and Phil Robinson but it wasn’t doing me any good not getting experience, we had a great midfield which probably didn’t help me, there were Paul Parry and Gavin Williams on the wings, then in the middle John Snape and Mark Taylor, when Taylor left Phil Robinson came in and he was a class act, so my opportunities were going to be restricted”

Beale had a meeting with Graham Turner towards the end of 2000 “It was all very amicable, I told him that I just wanted to play and we parted company, I do regret some days not staying but I was a young lad and being sat in the stand wasn’t doing me any good, Phil Robinson was taking more of a role as well and Graham Turner was taking a bit of step back then too”

Beale would join his home town club Bromyard Town and then spent seven seasons at Westfields “Worcester City wanted to sign me and they were the league below Hereford back then, but in those days I wasn’t driving so needed to stay local, we had a great side at Westfields with the likes of Paul Burton, Mark Hibbard and Sam Bowen, I ended up getting injured again which was frustrating, so I packed it in a few years ago. I managed Bromyard Town too for a bit and I bumped into Graham Turner a couple of times and there were no hard feelings”

It’s a shame that Beale wasn’t at least kept on as a dual registration during the 2000/2001 season and maybe got game time elsewhere whilst still being on Hereford United’s books “When I look back I probably should have stayed, but what hampered me was injuries. I ended up getting a really bad knee injury. I was a young lad and just wanted to play football, but it was brilliant being involved with Hereford United and playing with some great players, we had a really good set of lads “

Beale now resides in Bromyard with his wife and daughter and works as a postman.

Matt Beale and his wife Kate 2018

Photos supplied by Ron Parrott, MH Archive and Hereford Journal