Welcome to Last Word on Footballs ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at midfielder Joey Beauchamp.
Having come through the academy at Oxford United, Beauchamp would go on to make 145 appearances for the U’s before joining West Ham United.
However, his time in east London didn’t work out and, despite joining Swindon Town, Beauchamp returned to Oxford just one year later.
Returning Players – Joey Beauchamp
First Spell at Oxford United
A product of the Oxford United academy, Joey Beauchamp was adored by supporters from the off. Having made his debut in the 1989/90 season after coming on as a substitute against Watford, it was during the early 90s that his performances excited those at the Manor Ground.
He had to wait until the end of 1991 before netting his first Oxford goal in a win over Sunderland. Three months later, second-bottom Oxford faced promotion-chasing rivals Swindon Town, managed by Glenn Hoddle. It had been almost ten years since the U’s tasted victory over their rivals, but Beauchamp scored twice as the U’s won the game 5-3.
However, on the pitch, Oxford we’re precariously close to relegation from the second division. The U’s headed to Tranmere Rovers on the final day of the season one point behind Plymouth Argyle. Oxford needed to win and for the Pilgrims to lose in order to secure their second division status. With the game level at 1-1, Beauchamp ran through the Rovers defence before placing the ball into the back of the net. Plymouth lost and Oxford stayed up.
However, the following season and Oxford suffered relegation. With the club crippling in debt as a result of their rise through the divisions in the mid-80s, they were forced to sell key players, and Beauchamp was one of them.
Beauchamp recalled in an interview with the Oxford Mail: “Oxford United told me that if I didn’t join West Ham, then Oxford would be over; they had no money. What was I supposed to do? I could never have lived with myself if I refused to join West Ham and then Oxford did go under.”
From 145 appearances for the U’s, Beauchamp scored 25 goals in all competitions in his first spell at his hometown club.
Teams That Joey Beauchamp Played for in Between
Joey Beauchamp only played for two clubs before his return to Oxford one year later, and the phrase ‘played for’ may be a stretch for his first club.
With the club enforced to sell, Beauchamp joined Premier League side West Ham United in 1994 for a then club-record sale of £1.2 million. However, his tenure at Upton Park lasted just 58 days into his three-year deal after it emerged he became homesick from having to travel from Oxford every day.
Ironically, the 23-year-old made his only appearance in a pre-season friendly in Oxford as the Hammers faced Oxford City. The game is well known, not for Beauchamp, but for manager Harry Redknapp as he famously substituted a supporter on a half time.
Beauchamp was signed by Hammers legend Billy Bonds, but after the 23-year-old decided he wanted to leave, it led to Bonds being dismissed. Redknapp took over and was as eager to allow Beauchamp to leave.
The Premier League club were forced to suffer a loss of £400,000 when he was sold to Oxford’s rivals, Swindon.
The move wasn’t what Beauchamp wanted but he preferred that to his Hammers nightmare, with it closer to home. However, he played over 50 games for the Robins. But a change of manager from John Gorman, who had replaced Hoddle, to Steve McMahon, limited his playing opportunities.
Beauchamp attracted interest from Birmingham City and Millwall but requested a move back to Oxford and it was approved. The deal was described as being worth £300,000, but the Robins only received £75,000, with the rest the saving of his wages.
Return to Oxford
Beauchamp’s return was, on the whole, widely anticipated. However, the club had gone from a struggling second division side to a team pushing for promotion. His unsettled year had clearly affected him, but he opened his account in a club-record 9-1 victory over Dorchester Town in the FA Cup.
The winger scored in a 3-0 win over Swindon in 1996 and scored a terrific long-range volley against Blackpool as the U’s secured promotion, alongside several other top-class strikes through that campaign.
Beauchamp scored seven goals in Oxford’s first season back in Division 1 before ending the following season as the club’s top scorer with 19 goals.
Seven more goals came in 2000/01 as the U’s suffered another relegation before scoring on his final appearance in a 2-1 defeat against Exeter City, in which he retired afterwards as a result of injury.
Beauchamp Legacy at Oxford United
Beauchamp went on to score 53 goals from a further 284 appearances during his second spell. In total, Beauchamp scored 79 goals in 429 appearances for Oxford United and became one of the clubs longest serving players.
His goal against Blackpool was voted the greatest Oxford United goal by fans in 1999 and was also voted United’s player of the 1990s
Recently, the Oxford legend sat down with Sky Sports reporter Simon Watts and opened up about his move to Upton Park. The 49-year-old opened up about his dealings with depression, and how the West Ham debacle occurred.