Matt Healey continues the series.

Stewart Phillips was born in Halifax on December 30th 1961. He supported Leeds United as a boy and when moving to Hereford played for the Lads Club and was educated at Haywood High School.

He signed schoolboy forms at Edgar Street in 1976, and made his first team debut against Swindon Town aged just 16 on the 22nd April 1978.

Stewart told me. “I remember everything about my debut, the Friday afternoon (the day before the game) I had off school, It was incredible for me. I had been a Hereford fan since I was a child. I used to watch the likes of John Charles, Dixie McNeil and Steve Davey on the Meadow End.

I went to the Newcastle and West Ham FA Cup games in 1972 as a supporter. So a few years later I was making my league debut, and did ok. I remember on the way back from Wiltshire, John Layton told me on the coach that I would have a good career in the game, but looking at John he had a tooth knocked out, had five stitches above his eye, and I was thinking is that what I have to look forward too…”

English Football back in the late 1970’s was a totally different world to what it is now. Racism was rife on the terraces. I asked him how he coped “It didn’t really affect me, the only way to combat that was to put the ball in the back of the net”

Stewart’s first goal came during the 1979/1980 season during a 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic.

Hereford United were close to liquidation in the early 1980’s, and in 1982 finished bottom of the Football League. Back then Hereford lived hand to mouth “You’ve got to be professional, and put those thoughts at the back of your mind, you’re on a contract and its about doing your job”

John Newman had replaced Frank Lord as Hereford manager in 1983, and alongside Ollie Kearns formed a profitable striking partnership. Hereford were now away from the threats of re-election, and were looking upwards rather than downwards. Phillips scored a couple in this 3-0 win at Swindon Town.

During the 1984/1985 season Hereford United reached the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Phillips remembers the time fondly “I remember we played Plymouth in the 2nd round, (Phillips scored the 2nd goal in the 2-0 replay win at Edgar Street)

We had Arsenal in the 3rd round at Edgar Street, we played some remarkable football against them, especially in the 2nd half we battered them. John Lukic made a terrific save from Mike Carter at the end”

Sadly Hereford were defeated 7-2 at Highbury in the replay, the Bulls also finished 5th in what is now League Two. Unfortunately there were no play-offs back then, so the Bulls missed out on automatic promotion by one place.

Stewart’s dad Archie was a popular figure around the city. He was also a Hereford United director “My dad was invited onto the board in 1977. He was very supportive, he and my mother both encouraged me massively. it could have been a tricky situation with me being a player, but he handled it well”

A year later Hereford United suffered disappointment when they were knocked out of the Freight Rover area final by Bristol City “We won 2-0 at home in the 1st leg, me and Ollie Kearns scored, the crowd were fantastic, the supporters in general on the big occasions were brilliant, Edgar Street was rocking”.

In the 2nd leg Hereford lost 3-0, and were knocked out 3-2 on aggregate. “Paul Maddy missed a sitter, I wasn’t fit for the game at Ashton Gate as I pulled a hamstring, if I had played maybe things would have been different”

Bristol City would go on and beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 in the final, and Hereford missed out on a lucrative financial pay day at Wembley.

In his 1st spell Stewart spent 10 years at Edgar Street. It was always difficult for a hometown player when things were going badly. Especially a striker. I always felt Andy Williams left at exactly the right time when he joined Bristol Rovers in 2007.

I asked him if he probably stayed at Hereford United too long “I think from the age of 21 I should have gone elsewhere, for whatever reason it didn’t happen. I was top scorer for 3 or 4 seasons. Things were a bit different, as you didn’t have agents then to push you in the right direction, but thats how the way things panned out. In my early days I was struggling with a back injury, it was a physical league, it took me 2 to 3 years to get use to that style of football”

Stewart departed in March 1988 to join West Brom. He had scored 83 goals in 293 appearances at Edgar Street. He only played 15 times for the Baggies, but scored 4 times, including a memorable goal at Birmingham City.

He then joined Swansea City, he even had the unique distinction of playing a match against a prisoner football team from Long Lartin.

He returned to Edgar Street in August 1990 . “I enjoyed it, Colin Addision was back as manager, he was instrumental in me coming back. We started well, but dropped off. It was difficult for Colin, it didn’t work out for him, I scored 10 goals, but left at the end of the season”

The goals included a hat trick away at Halifax Town in a 4-0 win.

He also became the Hereford United all time Football League top scorer when he scored a consolation in a 2-1 defeat at Hartlepool United. Phillips had managed to overtake Dixie McNeil’s goalscoring record and ended up as the all time leading scorer of the club with 95 league goals.

In February 1991 Addison had freshened up his attacking options, he bought in Peter Heritage from Gillingham, and Simon Brain had recently been signed from Cheltenham, this meant Stewart’s first team chances were restricted, so it was understandable that he left at the end of the season.

Phillips had a brief spell at Wrexham, playing one game and scoring one goal “I had a 100% goal record there” a more permanent deal at the Racecourse didn’t materialise as the plan was to move to Hong Kong to play, but that fell through, he then played non league, and had spells at Worcester City, Merthyr Tydfil, Cheltenham Town and Yate.

He is a well known face around Hereford cycling around the city on his bike, and we had many chats around Breinton during lockdown.