Matt Healey continues the series.
Phil Preedy was born in Hereford on the 20th November 1975. He grew up in Ledbury and played in the Herefordshire league for the Ledbury Swifts. The journey to Hereford United seemed to be the obvious choice, but it nearly didn’t happen.
Preedy told me “I had trials at Arsenal, Manchester United and Aston Villa when I was around 15, but it didn’t come to anything concrete being offered to me. I was playing at Lads Club and I knew John Layton (Hereford United youth team manager) and he asked me if I was fixed up and I said no, so he immediately offered me a two year YTS deal”
In his first year at Edgar Street Preedy was part of the succesful youth team who won the West Midlands League and also the Welsh Youth Cup.
“We had a really good squad, a mixture of the local lads like Paul Eversham, Dean Clarke and Leigh Harris plus players from other parts of the country”
Despite being a second year YTS at Hereford. Preedy made his professional debut against Scarborough on the opening game of the season on the 14th August 1993 “Colin Anderson was our regular left back, but he been struggling all week with illness, Greg Downs (Hereford Manager) had told me I needed to improve my game defensively, even though I was a winger and never wanted to play in defence, anyway on the morning of the game I got called into the office and Greg said I would be starting that afternoon at left back, Colin Anderson had failed a fitness test. It wasn’t a problem as I was ready, plus I never want out on a Friday night, but back then there were no mobile phones or internet, so I couldn’t let my friends and family know I was playing”
It was a bittersweet moment for Preedy as he would make his debut, but also broke his collar bone and had four months out “It was about 70 minutes into the game. The ball got whacked to towards me, I lost my balance and fell awkwardly and got the injury. I spent the evening at A&E getting it sorted”
Preedy got himself back to fitness and was still a member of the youth team for the 1993/1994 season. “We had a new intake of lads like Andy Brownrigg and Rob Warner, they supplemented the players from the season before”
Preedy would return to the first team away at Scarborough on the 18th December 1993. Hereford would win 1-0 with a goal from Max Nicholson.
“Scarborough comes up quite a lot in my early days as I got sent off against them the next season too. I loved that part of my career. I played about 10-15 first team games as I was still a YTS player and learning my trade, but we had some great professionals who helped me so much. The likes of Howard Clark, Derek Hall and Gareth Davies, Colin Anderson was particularly good. He gave me so much advice and his insight was brilliant”
Preedy was then offered a full time contract at the end of the season, I thought it was a three year deal, but in fact it was a two “It’s kind of correct. The 1994-1995 season I started superbly and was flying, there was interest from other club’s, so in the Autumn Robin Fry (Managing Director) offered me an extended contract with an extra year included. He asked me to move to Hereford which I did, Ledbury was only 15 miles away, so it wasn’t far at all, plus he put my wages up”
The 1994-1995 season saw heavy investment in the squad. Greg Downs had significantly changed his squad that summer, the likes of Colin Anderson, Dave Morris, Leroy May, Gareth Abraham and Alan Judge departed, and the new arrivals at Edgar Street included Steve White, Dean Smith, Nicky Cross, Tony James and Richard Wilkins. “We had a pre-season tour up in Scotland and that was a good craic”
The season started badly and Hereford struggled for league form. Preedy was sent off for two yellow cards in a 3-1 loss away at Scarborough on the 30th August 1994.
The following Saturday he scored his first league goal by opening the scoring in a 3-1 win away at Rochdale.
Despite heavy investment in the squad, a famous League Cup win at West Brom wasn’t enough to save Downs, and he departed Edgar Street in mid September 1994.
John Layton took over as manager and Preedy maintained his form. He was on the score sheet in a 4-2 win at home to Torquay in the Auto Windscreens Shield “That was a great goal, I just ran with the ball, took it past the goalkeeper and slotted it in”
One of my favourite Hereford goals is the 2nd in a 2-1 win over Scunthrope on 1st October 1994. Tony James switches play to Preedy on the left, whose seductive cross is headed home by Steve White.
“I was enjoying my football. I played most of the games up till Boxing Day, but we lost to Mansfield 7-1 and I just seemed to lose my form after that and didn’t play again that season. I was still only 19 and it was hard going. I nearly got a move to Shrewsbury Town on deadline day in March 1995. Fred Davies was the manager for them at the time and we ended up speaking about it a few years later when he was at Weymouth and I was at Newport. Hereford wanted more money than Shrewsbury were prepared to offer. It would have been a move up a league and it may have reignited my career, but it wasn’t meant to be and I stayed at Hereford”
John Layton left as manager in the summer of 1995 and the former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Graham Turner took over “I got on with Graham to start with. He had inherited a squad which included some great signings the previous managers had made”
Preedy scored his only goal of the season in a 4-3 home loss to Bury on the 26th August 1995.
“Steve White was on fire, he scored nearly 40 goals in all competitions. The training with Graham was enjoyable and his coach was a chap called Dick Bate who was absolutely unbelievable in his methods, he was years ahead of his time”
Hereford would reach the play offs, but were defeated by Darlington in the Semi Finals.
Preedy remained at Hereford for the 1996/1997 season. “I was on form in pre-season, but we went down to a training camp at Lampeter in Wales. I injured my ankle ligaments and was out for about six weeks. I found it difficult to break into the side. I was more suited to a 4-4-2 formation, but Graham went with a 5-3-2 formation with Murray Fishlock at left wing back. I came off the bench a lot and scored a couple of goals but around Christmas time I was out of the squad pretty much”
I asked Preedy how he coped with not being included “Looking back I should have done more in training and stayed on for longer sessions. It was frustrating for me as I knew I could contribute. I went out on loan to Merthyr Tydfil”
Hereford legend Colin Addison was there as manager and I had a brilliant month down at Merthyr. my old mate Sam Bowen was there as well and it was a great time for me”
Hereford were tragically relegated from the Football League on 3rd May 1997. In an end of season shootout. The final game of the season was against Brighton. To stay in the Football League Hereford needed to win. Brighton needed a win or a draw. The game ended 1-1.
Despite accruing 47 points, which would normally most seasons keep you up. It was sods law that in the 1996/1997 season the rules had changed.
Usually when a team is level on points, the usual system of goal difference would kick in, but that season it was changed to goals scored, and with Hereford scoring less than Brighton, and with both clubs level on 47 points, Hereford went down by just 3 goals. If it had been on goal difference then the Bulls would have survived.
“I watched the game from the Meadow End. Adrian Foster missed a chance at the end. It was horrific after the game seeing the upset amongst the fans and players”
Preedy would be released at the end of the season. “Graham Turner didn’t tell me I had been released. I assumed I would be, but I had a letter in the post thanking me for my efforts and it said they would not be renewing my contract”
Preedy would then drop into the part time game. “I met with Colin Addison who wanted to take me to Merthyr, he offered me a great deal, but I ended up signing for Tim Harris at Gloucester City. It was a lot less travelling and Tim sold the club to me. I wasn’t driving then either so that swayed my decision. Tim then ended up going down to Newport and I had a couple of seasons down there with him. I was enjoying my football and we had a couple of cup runs. I then signed for Evesham and played alongside Sam Bowen again and winded down my career at Ledbury Town”
I asked Preedy what his most memorable Hereford moments were “Scoring my goals were great, We played Nottingham Forest in the League Cup too. They were flying in the Premier League and had the likes of Stan Collymore and Bryan Roy playing for them. We lost 2-1 up there in the 1st leg at the City Ground”
“In the 2nd leg at Edgar Street we drew 0-0, but if we had sneaked a 1-0 win we would have gone through on away goals”
“We played Middlesbrough in the League Cup as well and even though I didn’t get on, I remember the pitch at the Riverside stadium being like a bowling green”
Preedy doesnt do social media anymore and has lost contact with most of his ex colleagues “I saw Paul Eversham in town recently but that’s about it. I still see your interviews though and enjoyed the ones with Dean Clarke and Mark Hibbard”
I asked Preedy what he does for a living now “I’m a self employed painter and decorator. I travel around the country, but I still live in Ledbury”
Photo’s supplied by Ron Parrott, Chris Ponter and MH Archive