Fans' Opinion

Joey Beauchamp: The 58 Day Signing

Author: . Published: at 8:16pm

Written by : Dennis Watling

Let’s delve in to one of our most infamous summer signings, Joey Beauchamp. We’ve had quite a few calamitous flops over the years. Kieron Dyer’s four seasons injured, Titi Camara (who I can’t recall having a shot on target), Pogatetz, Wayne Bridge and Zaza having disastrous 6-month loans and Savio who has been spoken about till cows come home. Yet, Joey Beauchamp was recently listed in Dave & Ex’s top 10 hated figures at West Ham United. But how many fans know what happened? For many fans who are fortunate to be 28 years old or younger, he is just a mere footnote in a period of just before our time. Except for a brief mention in the 100 years of West Ham DVD, growing up I had no idea who he was; so why is he so hated by the fans, and what made this obscure transfer so infamous?

Honestly, this is something you would have expected out of Sky One’s Dream Team.

Signed in June 1994 from Third division Oxford, Beauchamp was 23 years old, a goalscoring left winger full of the flair West Ham arguably lacked in their first season in the Premier League. His reputation was growing in lower leagues; he had a cultured left foot and was the standout star of an Oxford side who was running low on funds. During the 93-94 season his form in an Oxford side who were relegated to Division 3 (League 2) had led many to believe he could be a future England star and with Euro 96 just round the corner, you would have thought he would want to take that step up with West Ham. This appeared to be a no brainer for the club and player, but alas – Beauchamp had reportedly had very little interest in leaving his hometown club.

The reason for this change? Unlike modern day football there was not a money grabbing agent. In a rare interview in 2010, Beauchamp revealed to the Oxford Mail that he was told the club may go out of business should he decline the move and his team mates would not receive their wages, and so Beauchamp agreed to join the Irons. But before the season even began, Swindon Town, a local rival of Oxford, offered £800,000 plus a central defender, Adrian Whitbread, in exchange. Whitbread made 10 league appearances over two seasons, before being sent packing to Portsmouth; brilliant. Amazingly, he re-joined Oxford for £75K in late 1995 where he stayed for the rest of his career which ended via injury in 2002, not that it was widely reported.

So why was he so hated?

The £1.25 mill fee was a BIG investment at the time (the Premier League was only two years old) – that was more than we paid for Carlos Sanchez in TODAY’s market and just half a million less than Don Hutchison, who was established at Liverpool before he signed for West Ham in the same window. But the transfer fee isn’t his fault, so why is he blamed? Well, one of the main reasons Beauchamp is hated for his role is the fact he decided not to move to the East End. I believe he, rather bizarrely, bought a house in Oxford shortly after the move, and then commuted to East London for training.  Beauchamp claims he was told this was not an issue at the time but did not name who told him that.

This was a decision that ultimately caused his downfall according to the management at the time, Bonds and Redknapp. Harry mentioned in his autobiography that he would break down in tears, turned up late for the pre-season friendlies and generally made little effort. Bonds, not known to pull his punches, is quoted as having simply called him a wimpy kid. Beauchamp clearly struggled with anxiety issues, that was clear, and in the mid-90s, just like the wider world, football was not understanding nor accommodating. Bonds was gone by August 1994 and depending on who you believe, this transfer was a huge reason behind it. It was widely regarded that Beauchamp was going to be a key part of his plans and without the creative player he had planned for, it was clear his plans for their second season in the Prem were out the window. West Ham struggled to stay up that year, with Don Hutchison securing safety in the 3-0 win over Liverpool. Despite finishing 15th in a 22-team season, we were only five points from relegation. Had Beauchamp stayed and showed the form that had him down as a potential England player, would we have been in the same situation?

Beauchamp said in a Sky Sports interview in September last year that he received death threats over this and people would knock at his parents’ door and ask where he was. In the same interview he highlighted that the support network was not there for him; he felt he was letting the management down, so was reluctant to try and reach out to them in his first weeks. He also reveals that in hindsight he should have moved to London.

Bonds’ description of Joey as a wimp may sound harsh and uncaring from a manager, but that was really more a sign of the times and a club legend who is regarded as a no nonsense tough guy – and you would argue that he just saw a homesick kid take his ball and go home. In that same Oxford Mail Interview in 2010, Beauchamp did not want to join Swindon, and West Ham was hell for him, but he was advised it was best to go due to fan backlash. Had this transfer happened in 2014, would his transfer had been handled differently?

There is a lot of talk right now of West Ham needing to sign hungry players from the league below who view us as a step up, but Beauchamp’s regrettable tale is a stark reminder that they do not always work out.