As the Mark Stimson era started with more of a whimper than a bang, we turned to Mark Beard for much-needed oomph in the middle of the park. In fact, we didn’t win any of our first six matches; the attacking style that came with Stimmo produced goals, sure. It’s just that our oppo were scoring more than we did. So, we needed a steady hand to get a grip on things and help kick-start the season. It turns out that Beardo would be that man.
When did Mark Beard join us?
September 2006, if you want the short answer. At the time, Beardo – with his huge depth of experience – did not have a club. As he told the excellent Stevenage FC History: “I got my brother Matt to ring a few managers for me. Stimmo (Mark Stimson) was one of them. Boro’ hadn’t started the season very well and he wanted to add some grit into midfield.”
See. We told you.
Where did he play for Boro’?
In the middle of the field. You could almost say he played in ‘midfield’. Not sure that label will catch on. But it’s a modern game, so you never know what’ll catch on.
What makes him an unsung hero?
First, he did exactly what Stimmo wanted him to do. It’s almost an omen that, on debut, we smashed Stafford Rangers. Sure, he didn’t make his bow until the 73rd minute. But it put a rocket up the arse of our season. If you ignore the two defeats that came straight after. We started to get into a groove that – as ever with Boro’ – really showed itself after Christmas.
Of course, you can look at that squad and put it down to the goals that Moro scored – and Dobbo, Adam Miller or Boydie. Or it could’ve been the defensive work done by Ron, Barry Fuller, John Nutter et al. But that’s almost too easy. No, it actually is too easy. It absolutely insults the role that Beardo played; the glue that held it all together in the middle.
If it ain’t for Mark Beard in there, Millsy (and Stuart Lewis) don’t have the freedom to push on in support of the attack. The defence don’t have the covering, prowling presence of an insatiable attack dog of a CDM. The run of results for the 2006-7 campaign show that we didn’t always get it right under Stimmo. But we won at bleedin’ Wembley, didn’t we?
And Mark Beard played every minute of our FA Trophy campaign. Few others did, if any.
In fact, hindsight plays a killer hand from time to time. That side, of which Beard was the metronomic heart, should’ve been in the promotion mix. Eight points was how far we fell short of the playoffs. Points were dropped all over the shop after we secured our spot at Wembley. Them the breaks. Would you trade it. Unlikely. We just ran out of puff.
That’s Beardo’s assessment, at least: “We just drifted away at the wrong time. I felt it was because we had played a lot more games than other teams – and just run out of steam.” (Courtesy: Stevenage FC History)
You can also ask – legit, like – if we’d have got to Wembley without Mark Beard; whether Stimmo would’ve got the season up and running when we did. Getting a midfielder with a triple ton of senior appearances behind him was a masterstroke. Again, those sorta calls don’t always work out. But it did with Beardo. And we got 49 committed outings from him.
Mark Beard: Epilogue
Looking back now, it’s a surprise that we didn’t get another season out of him. Not that he chose it that way; telling Stevenage FC History that Stimmo decided to let him go in order to bring John Martin in. Then again, the gaffer thought swapping us for Gillingham later in the 2007-8 season was a good idea. Neither were good ideas in hindsight. Too late now.
The next stop for Beardo would be Stalebuns as player-assistant under Ritchie Hanlon. It didn’t last too long, however; Hanlon getting the boot and Beard leaving too. So, next was a spell at AFC Wimbledon – helping the Dons up to Conference South.
He started the 2008-9 campaign at Haywards Heath Town of the Sussex County League; moving into the managerial hotseat in his second season there. He also took the reins of Tooting & Mitcham United for a time, donning his boots once again in the 2010-1 season to help his side cope with an injury crisis. He’s also currently academy coach at Brighton.
But it’s while with us where his footballing days hit their peak; “my stint at Boro’ was the best time in my career,” he told Stevenage FC History. The feeling is definitely mutual if you ask us. And we reckon we got the best of Mark Beard in that time too. Who knows what’d be the case if Stimmo kept him. But would it have stopped Stimmo then leaving?
And then why spoil what remains, for us, a load of happy memories. Cheers Beardo.
Mark Beard – 47 (2) appearances, 3 goals (2007-8)