Joey Beauchamp: West Ham’s 58-Day Signing

Joey Beauchamp: West Ham’s 58-Day Signing


In late June 1994, West Ham United announced
the signing of Joey Beauchamp, a 23 year-old winger from
Oxford United, for a fee of a just over £1m. The Premier League was just two years old
and its financial ascent had really yet to begin, meaning that the
fee was a significant outlay for a club of West Ham’s size. Alongside midfielder Don
Hutchinson, signed for £1.5m from Liverpool, Beauchamp was intended
to be one of the club’s headline signings of that summer.
Not without reason, either, because Beauchamp, an aggressive, wide-dwelling player with a
cultured left-foot and the ability to glide past opponents and
score goals, was one of the First Division’s outstanding young
players. Talented as he was, though, Oxford United
were sliding towards financial peril. The club reached their modern day peak in
the mid-1980s, achieving successive promotions under Jim Smith
in 1984 and 1985 respectively, taking them back into the old First Division. Smith departed
in 1985, moving to Queens Park Rangers at season’s end,
but in 1986 United won the league cup, beating Smith’s QPR at
Wembley, with a team which included Ray Houghton and John Aldridge.
Unfortunately, their progress was being supported by a financial illusion . In 1982, Oxford
had been taken over by Robert Maxwell, the media magnate
and former proprietor of the Mirror Group. When Maxwell died
in 1991, his business interests unravelled, with an investigation revealing vast levels
of fraud. His empire, by then under the control of his two sons, melted
into insolvency. The effect on Oxford was cataclysmic, beginning
a hand-to-mouth existence which would last right the way
through the next decade. By the 1993-94 Joey Beauchamp had begun to
emerge as a credible top-division talent and, tentatively,
perhaps even a future England player. Nevertheless, the financial drain on Oxford was fatal, dragging
them back to the third-tier with relegation at
season’s end. Despite his admirers, Beauchamp expressed little
interest in playing football elsewhere; he had been born in Oxford and had graduated
through the club’s youth system.
But relegation mandated his sale. Years later, in a 2010 interview with the Oxford Mail,
he would reveal that he was presented with a simple choice when
West Ham’s bid was made: either he agree to the move, or the
club would go out of business. Reluctantly he agreed, becoming United’s
record sale in the process, but, crucially, declined to move to East
London. Instead, he used the signing-on fee he made from the transfer to purchase a house
in Oxford, choosing instead to commute to East London
for training. According to Harry Redknapp, then West Ham’s
assistant manager under Billy Bonds, the problems began
straight away. In his autobiography, Redknapp recalled Beauchamp “breaking down in tears
on the way to training on his first day because he was homesick”
and, a few weeks later, Beauchamp turning up late for a
pre-season game with Portsmouth and making little effort.
As always, Redknapp’s version of events warrants an asterisk. Bonds himself was much
more forthright in his recollection, though, referring to the
transfer as a “disaster”, Beauchamp as a “wimp”, and reasoning that
the club was too big for the player. He was damning.
Beauchamp would make his escape. Prior to the West Ham transfer being completed, Swindon
Town had carried an interest in the player and, offering
defender Adrian Whitbread in part-exchange, were able to
convince West Ham to cut their losses on Beauchamp after 58 days and before he had played a competitive
game for the club. That in itself was controversial. Swindon
Town and Oxford United are fierce local rivals and a local news
interview conducted after his signing showed a slightly dazed Beauchamp, clearly happy
to have escaped West Ham, but also uncertain as to what his
future held. “I didn’t want to go there either”,
he told the Oxford Mail in 2010, “but I had to get out of West
Ham and Swindon were the only team at that moment who were interested.”
It was another unhappy spell. Beauchamp was signed on the urging of John Gorman, then
Swindon manager and future England assistant to Glenn
Hoddle, but Gorman was sacked before the end of
the year and, to Beauchamp’s further detriment, he was replaced by Steve McMahon, who was
far less indulgent of the winger’s precocious
flair. By October 1995, fourteen months after arriving
at the County Ground, Beauchamp had been transfer-listed and was heading back to where
he started: Oxford’s bid of just £75,000 was accepted
and he returned to the Manor Ground. In spite of their continuing financial difficulties,
he would remain a United player for the rest of his
career. The saga’s legacy profoundly damaged Beauchamp’s
reputation. He remains one of the greatest players in Oxford’s history and his thirty-five
yard half-volley against Blackpool, which crashed in
off the London Road End crossbar, is widely acknowledged as the finest goal the Manor
Ground ever saw.
Still, outside of Oxford, Beauchamp’s career has been unfairly defined by those 58 days
at West Ham. Billy Bonds would resign as manager in
August 1994 and to many, that was a direct consequence of the Beauchamp debacle. As a
player, Bonds was a West Ham icon who still holds
the club’s appearance record, and the perception was of a young outsider with an inferior attitude
contributing to a legend’s demise. A rational conclusion, but a reductive one
in hindsight. In 2002, injury forced Beauchamp into
retirement at the age of just 31. The years after were not kind to him and, despite continuing
to play in the local Oxfordshire non-leagues, by 2008
he had begun the descent into depression and alcoholism, culminating in a drink-driving
conviction in August 2009 which, thankfully, would alter
his life’s trajectory for the better. In the mid-1990s, English football’s understanding
of mental health issues was extremely primitive. While Bonds comments suggest a lack of compassion,
they were really typical of the time. The likely also betrayed a certain level of personal
bitterness, but they still conformed entirely to
contemporary attitudes within the game. Weakness was a taboo.
Beauchamp’s aversion to London and reluctance to leave his home community suggest only the
mildest form of anxiety, the issues which manifested later in his life suggested a far
deeper fragility – the kind, ultimately, which would be treated
with sympathy today, rather than derision. His was a
substantial talent. He was a wonderful player, but a fragile one, and had the proper support
been in place and had Oxford not been incapacitated
by Maxwell’s fraud, he would have been much more
than just a footnote within West Ham’s transfer history.

About the Author: Garret Beatty

67 Comments

  1. Players being so loyal to a club . man those days are gone. Snakes like Neymar Sterling etc wont shed a tear instead they would wipe off all those issues with fresh Euros

  2. Amazing. I Google'd him and couldn't believe he was 48, doesn't seem that long ago. What could've been. I also often think about Dean Ashton, I think he woulda ended up at Man Utd. You should do 1 on Duncan Edwards Tifo.

  3. oh can you do one for our Jamaica reggae boyz pls Sensible players or transfer of how we could grow Leon Bailey play for us he's a Jamaican

  4. What an amazing story of a guy who wasn't happy at his new workplace and gets called a 'wimp' for just being human. Hope we had a better system than capitalism that cared about wellbeing rather than profits.

  5. He suffered a lot of personal problems alongside being a great footballer. including a big gambling addiction. Which he now works at a ladbrokes. Such a shame. I’ve walked in and was shocked to see him. I watched him all the time as I was growing up at the manor.

  6. A 23 year old man crying on the team bus because he's homesick? These days that would be a 'red flag' and he would be sent to a mental health specialist within days!

  7. Great video. The highlight of this video for me though was the questionable animation of Glenn Hoddle haha. Looks like the Joker.

  8. You should do a video on the last team that wasn’t rangers or Celtic to win the league, sir Alex’s Aberdeen In the 80s

  9. calling him fragile because he had mental health issues is pretty poor form and does naught but perpetuate the kind of bullish attitudes you take aim at in this video. fact is he was carrying more than most players and probably did that with an inner strength others would lack.

  10. Weakness in football is a taboo. But mental health problems should never been defined as a “weakness”, and it’s good to see the game coming around to that viewpoint (albeit slowly) Great video.

  11. People within football still don't want to talk about mental health, but I'm happy small steps are being made to combat that.

  12. Between 1960-1964, Leicester won the league cup, lost in the FA Cup final twice, and came in the top 6 three times. Reckon you could do a video about that side?

  13. Nice vid, had always wondered what went on with that transfer. That said, your pronunciation of Ray Houghton's surname is abysmal. I wouldn't mind but he's still a pundit and co-commentator on a regular basis

  14. Please do a video on Scarborough FCs demise, former football league club that were relegated in 1999 and went out of existence in 2007

  15. Do one on Fabio Paim. He is the same age as Cristiano Ronaldo, and at the time, when Ronaldo started playing with only 17 years in the sporting team, he said the famous words: "If you think I'm good, wait until you see Fabio play".
    Nowadays Fabio is in jail. I think it would make a great video

  16. I think a video detailing oxford financial unravel would be of interest.
    Maxwell was hailed as a saviour but built up debt, kassam came in and stole the stadium. He doesn't own oxford anymore but still owns the (unfinished) stadium that they play on

  17. Joey who sorry? Beecham?
    Don who?
    So many errors every time I watch one of these vids! 37 seconds in, can't watch any more. Dislike

  18. I fucking adore these short stories. Incredibly informative on players/eras/teams of yore. Perfectly digestible, wonderfully narrated. Simply top tier content.

  19. As a West Ham fan I can certainly remember this saga and he was given a lot of stick but this video certainly puts all that into perspective, wish him all the best.

  20. I had never heard of em, and I have to apologies to you, TIFO people. I thought you were destroying this man's name. As it is a quite common French speaker surname and is pronounced BO-SHAMH. I would not have commented demandind a change or anything. But I am very happy to apologies for doubting you all.

  21. Just goes to show how far we've come in terms of mental health awareness. I'm sure I speak for most people when I say that I involuntarily winced at the mention of Billy bonds' comments towards Beauchamp.

    Horrible thing to happen to a gifted player but it serves as somewhat of a milestone in the present day

  22. Currently sitting top of the TIFO Match Pint league after a ridiculous run of good luck this game week. Anybody else playing along? How we all doing?

  23. 58 days? What about David Unsworth who signed for Aston Villa from Everton, lasted 30 something days then went back to Everton? In 2002 if I’m not mistaken!

  24. Really happy to see you've shared his story. He was a talent who has been smeared because of those days at West Ham. He still occasionally comes to watch the club and has been a guest of honour on multiple occasions, each time getting the round of applause he truly deserves from the Oxford faithful. Hero.

  25. remember him from champ manager. never knew this story. quite sad really. someone who really loved his hometown and club. fair play

  26. Damn I remember Joey Beauchamp. He just seemed like a guy who loved to play football and didn't care about the fame etc.

  27. Beauchamp lived my dream career. Promising youngster at your boyhood club, leaves to gain the club money, leaves West Ham which means they wasted money, goes to and leaves his clubs rival meaning they wasted money too, ends up back at his boyhood club

  28. I know u will never see this but plz do a video on Enfield town. They should be a massive club in the championship or higher. Very rich history

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