Tuesday, 5 July 2011

In Profile: Joey Beauchamp

Ahead of Friday's 'Two Legends, One Match' testimonial for Joey Beauchamp and David Langan we'll be taking a look at the careers of both players and examining their contribution to OUFC. First we'll look at Joey Beauchamp. A local boy come good he is a true Oxford United legend, though other events mean he may not be so popular with fans of either West Ham or Swindon! So is he a local hero or simply a mummy's boy?

Joey Beauchamp scored the best goal ever seen at the Manor and was voted Oxford's best player of the 1990s – he's even the proud father of the Oxford Mail's 'Baby of the Year' 2010! As a local boy blessed with a wealth of footballing talent capable of gracing the Premier League, who instead chose to stay with his local club for almost his entire career, making 428 appearances and scoring 77 goals, Joey Beauchamp would be considered an Oxford legend by almost any criteria one chooses to judge such things.

Joey was signed to the Youth Team System having been spotted playing for Summertown Stars as a boy and having impressed made his professional debut in 1989, coming on as a substitute in a 4-0 home defeat to Watford in the final match of what had been a depressing season for the club as Brian Horton tried to make do as best he could with an inherited squad on a shoestring budget. Beauchamp's appearance on the final day of that season was merely a small glimmer of hope for the future as the youth team system began to bear fruit that would constitute the spine of the team for the coming years of austerity. Over the years that followed, as the club struggled on under intense financial pressure, Beauchamp first gradually established himself as a regular starter and then became a star at the Manor. In 1992 he scored two goals in a thrilling 5-3 victory over Swindon at the Manor, as well as scoring a vital goal to save us from relegation away at Tranmere on the final day of the 91/92 season. Beauchamp's hero status at Oxford, as well as his match-winning performances, began to attract interest from bigger clubs but Beauchamp, only just turned 20, remained at Oxford for two more seasons of struggle.

While both the club and the player tried to resist a move, deteriorating finances and relegation to the Second Division (aka League 1) in 1994 meant that West Ham's offer of £1million for Beauchamp was considered too good to turn down and, despite his reluctance to leave, he was eventually persuaded to leave when Keith Cox allegedly told him the club would go bust if he wasn't sold. The move may have saved the club, but it was a personal disaster for Joey, who had just bought a house in Oxford and did not want to relocate to East London. He was soon shipped out - after just two months and without playing a single competitive match for West Ham – to Swindon for £800,000.

Joey scores a brilliant goal in his last match before his sale to West Ham

Unsurprisingly, Beauchamp's time at Swindon proved to be an unhappy one. Despised by Oxford supporters for his defection and derided by West Ham fans as a 'mummy's boy', he was also never welcomed at Swindon due to his Oxford connections. Beauchamp lasted just over a season at the County Ground but never really settled, making 60 appearances but scoring just 4 goals at Swindon. Joey feel out of favour with new Swindon boss Steve McMahon and in October 1995, less than 16 months after he had left Oxford as a million pound man, he returned home to a hero's welcome for the meagre sum of £75,000.

Joey Beauchamp's first game back in a yellow shirt, against Stockport County

Beauchamp rejoined an Oxford side under Denis Smith that had set its sights firmly on promotion but was struggling to live up to expectations. However, as Beauchamp gradually regained match sharpness results began to pick up and he was an essential part of a team that earned 42 points out of a possible 51 in the latter stages of the season to steal second spot and automatic promotion. Joey was instantly reinstated as an Oxford hero after he scored the final goal at the Cuckoo Lane end in a 3-0 victory over Swindon.

Scoring Oxford's third of the match in front of the Swindon fans in March 1996

Beauchamp's finest moment arguably came just a few weeks later when league leaders Blackpool came to the Manor. A victory was crucial to keeping our slim hopes of automatic promotion alive and that was achieved thanks to Joey, who struck a beautiful looping shot from 20 yards out which sailed through the Blackpool keeper's arms and somehow under the bar – the only goal of the game. United were clawing their way back into contention for the automatic spots, finally sealing promotion on the last day with a 4-0 home thrashing of Peterborough.

Joey Beauchamp's spectacular goal against Blackpool

Upon his return to the second tier Beauchamp continued to impress and on form he was often unplayable. Swindon Town resorted to physical assault verging on the criminal in order to stop him from tearing them apart again on our first visit to the County Ground in October 1996. Once again he was the focus of much attention from Premier League clubs (and, in some cases, smaller wealthy clubs with ambitions to reach the Premier League) and there was rarely a time when Beauchamp wasn't rumoured to be leaving the club, which was still facing financial ruin. If local newspaper reports from the time are to be believed Beauchamp was approached by Bolton, Fulham, Southampton, Manchester City and Nottingham Forest.

It was around this time that a persistent injury to his toe began to affect Joey's performances and after failing a medical at Nottingham Forest his career was in decline. As Oxford moved into the brand new Kassam Stadium, Beauchamp found himself struggling to get into the team as Mark Wright misguidedly attempted to stamp his own mark onto the squad by neglecting the few players who had actually performed in recent seasons, and as a result Beauchamp spent most of the season on the subs bench. Beauchamp played his final match for Oxford in February 2002, making a surprise start in a home defeat to Exeter City and scoring Oxford's goal in that game, a spectacular volley from the edge of the area.

Joey Beauchamp's last game and last goal for Oxford (apologies for the poor sound)

Beauchamp didn't play again for the rest of the 2001/02 season. It was not a fitting end to his career at the club and was made worse by a contractual dispute with Firoz Kassam, which was eventually settled out of court (a deal which included the promise of a testimonial, which apparently slipped off the agenda for the next 9 years!). It was a bitter way to end what had been a fantastic career with the club, but after leaving he continued playing football in the local area, moving to Ryman League Abingdon Town in the summer of 2002.

Joey Beauchamp's post-football years have not been kind to him, however, and after squandering much of his money gambling on the dogs he suffered a breakdown in 2008, spending the next year and a half battling depression and alcohol addiction. His lowest moment came in August 2009 when he was banned from driving after being caught more than three times over the limit. This, however, served as a wakeup call for Joey, who has since begun to repair his family life and make up for the time he lost. Regardless of what has happened since his retirement from professional football, Joey Beauchamp is remembered by Oxford fans as one of the most loyal, exciting and occasionally controversial players to have donned the yellow shirt in the club's history.


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