Matt Healey continues the series.
Paul Wheeler was born in Caerphilly on the 3rd January 1965.
He began his career at Bristol Rovers, but didn’t appear for the first team, he subsequently dropped into welsh non league football with Taffs Well and Aberaman.
After he scored plenty of goals in the welsh non league system. Scouts flocked to watch him, he impressed in a trial game and returned to the Football League in 1985 with Cardiff City, he made over 100 appearances for the Bluebirds.
After four years at Ninian Park, Wheeler was released by Cardiff City manager Len Ashurst in 1989 and had a brief spell at Hull City. He joined Hereford United in early 1990. Wheeler tells me how he arrived at Edgar Street.
“I had a phone call from Hereford manager Ian Bowyer, he had always be interested with me when I was at Cardiff City. I was only on non contract forms at Hull and I spoke to the manager Stan Ternent, but he couldn’t offer me what I wanted, so I drove down in my car and signed for Hereford United. It made things so much easier for me location wise as I was still living in Cardiff at the time and the journey to Hereford was just over an hour away”
Wheeler made his Bulls debut against Maidstone United in a 2-0 loss on 14th February 1990. Hereford manager Ian Bowyer was a positive influence on Wheeler “He told me to enjoy my football, not to come back for corners and free kicks and play my natural game. I felt at ease and I scored plenty of goals in the last three months of that season”
Wheeler opened his Hereford account with the only goal of the game in a 1-0 away win against Doncaster Rovers on the 25th February 1990.
He scored a double against Colchester United in a 2-0 home win on the 14th March 1990.
He was also on the scoresheet when the Bulls defeated promotion chasing Exeter City 2-1 on 31st March 1990.
Hereford would reach the Welsh Cup Final that season, but unfortunately Wheeler couldn’t play as he was cup tied, when he left Cardiff City in September 1989, he briefly turned out for AFC Cardiff in a Welsh Cup game . For all the historians AFC Cardiff later became Inter-Cardiff, who were also known as Inter CabelTel and then they merged with Cardiff Met who recently played in Europe and now play in the Welsh Premier.
“It was frustrating as I knew I was playing my best football. I was relaxed and scoring goals, but the lads did great in winning the final against Wrexham”
Ian Bowyer departed that summer and Colin Addison returned as manager. I asked him how the two managers compared.
“Colin had been abroad in Spain and he came over with these ideas of a lot of ball work, with Ian Bowyer he was a lot more tactical and favoured youth over experience”
Former Hereford striker Stewart Phillips had returned to Edgar Street for a 2nd spell and despite starting the season up front with the then record signing Ian Juryeff. Wheeler would have to make do with a place on the substitutes bench from early September onwards.
Juryeff was then sold to Halifax Town for £50,000 and on loan striker Colin Gordon came in from Leicester City and he was the preferred partner with Phillips. Then when Gordon returned back to Filbert Street, Paul Millar was bought in from Port Vale on loan.
Wheeler scored his first league goal of the season in a 3-0 win over Burnley on the 13th October 1990.
His most famous Hereford goal came against his former club Cardiff City in a 1-1 draw at Edgar Street on the 20th October 1990, he had received plenty of stick from the 3,000 travelling Bluebird’s who had swelled the crowd to nearly 6,000 that Saturday afternoon. Cardiff had taken an early lead through Mark Jones, but constant Hereford pressure in the 2nd half bought a 87th minute equaliser. Wheeler had come on for Paul Millar (who in fact later played for Cardiff) and he silenced the Cardiff boo boys with the late strike, this was in front of the packed travelling army who were situated in the Blackfriars enclosure and across the Len Weston stand.
“It’s good to score against the manager who gets rid of you. Its a difference of emotions as in one way I was happy, but when I went off on my run to celebrate the goal I spotted my next door neighbour in the away enclosure and lets say I gave him a wave. I got so much stick for the goal. I was still living in Cardiff. I couldn’t go out for three weeks as everyone knew where I lived”
The Central News South footage misses out the celebration, but it shows the packed visiting enclosure.
Wheeler was frustrated with his role on the subs bench. Despite scoring against Burnley and Cardiff he still had to make do with a substitutes position. I asked him if the management thought he was more of an impact player “No, not at all. A certain coach came in to the club and we didn’t see eye to eye, my playing career was stalled”
I asked Wheeler if that was Bobby Smith, “correct” he replied “I knew him from my time at Cardiff City”
Smith left Hereford to join the coaching staff at Swansea City in early 1991 and Wheeler found himself in the starting line up again.
He scored the 2nd goal in a 2-0 home win against Rochdale on a freezing cold night on 30th January 1991.
His final Hereford goal was in a 4-0 demolition over Maidstone United on a blustery day on the 23rd February 1991.
Colin Addison had signed a couple of strikers in Simon Brain and Peter Heritage and by mid March Wheeler only appeared as an occasional subsitute. He would leave Hereford at the end of the season.
“Colin had told me that he had enough and would be off at the end of the campaign. John Sillett was coming in as manager and I ended up being released, there was a big clear out that summer”
Wheeler then moved up a level signing for Division Three (Now League One) Stockport County who would reach the Play Offs at the end of the season. The move up north restored his confidence “I just enjoyed playing football, at Cardiff City I won promotion, lifted the Welsh Cup and played in Europe. At Hereford I probably played my best football under Ian Bowyer. I was so looking forward to the following season, but when the new management came in. I wasn’t getting much of a look in and I was gutted to be released. I needed to find another club. Danny Bergara called me at Stockport County. I had a trial and scored in a pre season game. I initially joined on a short term deal and then signed a longer contract. It was great playing for the club. It restored my confidence and I played at Wembley twice for them”
Wheeler then later signed for Chester City in 1993 and scored in the 5-0 win at Hereford on the 6th November 1993.
Chester City finished the season as runners up and were promoted to Division Two (Now League One). Wheeler then dropped into the non league game playing for Stalybridge Celtic, Leigh RMI and Winsford.
Wheeler still lives near Stockport and runs a plumbing business. He came back to Hereford for the reunion in June 2019.
“I still play football when I can locally and always keep an eye out on the results of the teams that I previously played for”
Photos supplied by Ron Parrott, Hereford Journal and MH Archive