Hereford Hero #23 – Stewart Phillips

Here at Talking Bull we are continuing to build up our archive which details the careers of former Hereford players, and today we look back at a striker who features heavily in the Edgar Street history books.

Hereford Hero.

STEWART PHILLIPS.

In two separate spells with Hereford, Stewart Phillips proved to be a talented goalscorer, and will remain in the record books forever.

Stewart was the first player to score a hat-trick in an away match for the club in the Football League, and was also the first to score 100 goals for United in the league era.

Born in Halifax in December 1961, he was brought up in Hereford, attending the Haywood High School. At the age of sixteen years and 112 days he made his Bulls debut, in a 1-0 defeat away at Swindon Town in April 1978.

Seven months later Stewart signed on professional terms, making 5 appearances for Hereford in the Fourth Division during the 1978/79 campaign, but it took until the following season for his opening goal for United – at home to Wigan Athletic in a 2-1 victory.

Over time his confidence grew, and so did the goal-scoring tally, as Stewart went on to be the Bulls’ top scorer in four successive seasons, 81/82 (16), 82/83 (14), 83/84 (19) and 84/85 (22). During this period he forged a strong partnership up front with Ollie Kearns, who also scored 22 times in the 1984/85 season.

His first hat-trick was bagged at Edgar Street against Chester on 5 February 1983 – this the first since Dixie McNeil eight seasons earlier. At that time the only other player to have done so was Frank McGrellis.

During the early 1980’s the club suffered financial problems, operating with a small playing squad. Indeed, Hereford finished bottom of the Football League and a ‘Save Our Soccer’ campaign was launched to stave off the threat of liquidation. Such was Stewart’s desire he was an ever-present in the team throughout the 1983/84 season, alongside goalkeeper Kevin Rose.

The arrival of manager John Newman inspired Hereford to such an extent that the club amazingly became promotion candidates in the 1984/85 season. Stewart excelled, and alongside Jimmy Harvey and Chris Price was named in the PFA Fourth Division XI. Scouts were now taking a keen interest in the marksman’s development, but his injury-free run ended, and he had to sit out most of the following year.

But 1986 saw him back, scoring the first hat-trick for Hereford in an away match in the Football League. Burnley were thrashed 6-0 at Turf Moor. His 100th for the club arrived during another away game – this time at Northampton in a 3-2 defeat.

In 1988, after scoring 83 goals in 293 appearances for the club he was transferred to West Bromwich Albion, then managed by Ron Atkinson and former Bulls boss Colin Addison. He went on to feature 15 times for the Baggies – scoring four times, against Ipswich, Barnsley, Plymouth and Birmingham City. When he scored, West Brom never lost!

‘Atkinson bought me after I was initially going to go on a month’s loan,’ Phillips explains.

‘Then they managed to sort out the transfer fee, about £25,000 – which wasn’t a lot of money, but there wasn’t around in the game at the time’.

After helping Albion stave off the threat of relegation from the Second Division, Stewart was on the move again – and a brief spell at Swansea City.

‘I really enjoyed my spell at the Hawthorns. It was just unfortunate Ron Atkinson and Colin Addison went to Atletico Madrid. I was just caught up in it really. It was all about timing…right place, wrong time. I didn’t doubt my ability at that level at all. I’d had a good scoring record at Hereford, and I was getting used to playing in the Second Division.

‘Swansea came in and I didn’t have to go, but there was a little bit more money in it, and I went for the pound signs when I shouldn’t have done really.’

Stewart never settled and the striker returned to Edgar Street, initially on loan, at the start of the 1990/91 campaign. He soon hit the back of the net with a strike at home against York City, and then played his 300th game for the Bulls on 29th September 1990 when Stockport County were the visitors. He thus became only the 3rd player to achieve this feat, following in the footsteps of Mel Pejic and Chris Price.

Hereford’s loyal travelling band of supporters were then treated to another Phillips hat-trick, as he returned to his hometown of Halifax, securing an emphatic 4-0 win at the Shay. Indeed, the Bulls striker eventually overtook Dixie McNeil as the club record marskman in league football, with 93 goals.

Phillips’ last game for Hereford was away at Peterborough United in May 1991, ending a thoroughly dedicated career at Edgar Street.

After leaving the Bulls, Stewart played for Wrexham, Aldershot, Kettering, and Sudbury Town. He later opened up a fitness suite in the city, and remains a regular visitor to the club, closely following the Bulls’ fortunes with interest.

By Keith Hall

Images: Ron Parrott Archive.

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