The Stevenage Years

The summer of 2009 was a strange one for me. It was on the back of an injury hit season as part of a relegated Northwich Victoria team from the National League. The club had spent most of the season in administration and it was inevitable when relegation struck with six weeks left of the season.

Just after the season I received a phone call saying the club had accepted a bid of £15,000 from Stevenage and I was to head down there for what would be a highly successful three seasons with the Hertfordshire club.

Those three seasons provided me with some of the best moments of my footballing career. The squad was filled with fantastic athletes (minus myself) who could physically dominate any team it came up against. The team worked long hours, I remember two days before we beat Newcastle United in the FA Cup we where still on the pitch at 7pm trying to find a way to beat the Magpies.

We had a manager in Graham Westley who really get the best out of his players during that time. It wasn’t necessarily the squad with the most quality in either of my three seasons but it was a squad who knew how to win football matches. The amount of work we put in during the week benefited us at the weekend when teams got out run and physically dominated for 90 minutes.

There was many memorable games during my time there. I have three in my mind that really stick with me. The first was my season in the Blue Square Premier in the 2009-10 season. It was Kidderminster away and a win would secure the title. We had the perfect start when Charlie Griffin put us ahead after just 70 seconds from a free kick. The game was a bit tentative throughout but I managed to get the second goal just after the hour mark to see us promoted into the football league for the first time in the clubs history.

Image result for joel byrom stevenage

The second memorable game comes in the season after in League Two. After an injury hit season I was struggling to get into the team but with two games to go away at Northampton we had two central midfielders sent off and another one injured in the following week giving me an opportunity I never imagined getting but I was ready.

It was the play off semi final against my home town club Accrington Stanley. A team I had previously played for but at the time I hadn’t matured enough to play senior football. This was my chance to show them I was ready after years in the non league. I scored in the first game and was part of another win in the second game to send us into the final to play Torquay United at Old Trafford. We went on to secure our second promotion in two years beating them 1-0 thanks to a wonder strike from John Mousinho. I can still see his chicken celebration to this day.

Image result for stevenage play off winners

The third and final game is the FA Cup tie away to Tottenham Hotspur. After a 0-0 draw at the Lamex Stadium we traveled to White Hart Lane as massive underdogs. That all changed five minutes into the game when we were awarded a penalty.

I was handed the ball and it seemed like time stood still while I was waiting to take the penalty. I could feel my left leg trembling as i stood there in front of the goalkeeper and a sell out crowd. I sent Carlo Cudicini the wrong way to put us 1-0 up and I just remember my team mates surrounding me whilst our left back Scott Laird decided to gouge my eye as part of private joke we had.

The game finished 3-1 to Spurs in the end but that feeling of scoring the first goal in that game will stay in my memory for the rest of my life.

So in three years with the club I was involved in two promotions, an FA Trophy final at Wembley, a play-off final at Old Trafford,an FA Cup victory against Newcastle United and a sixth round replay at White Hart Lane. Not many players get those sort of highlights in a full career yet I managed to be part of a special squad who achieved all those things in three seasons.

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “The Stevenage Years

  1. Still gives me shivers , that atmosphere at stevenage against Newcastle was electric. Thanks for your time at the club. Great read

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  2. It’s been a pleasure watching you joel,you’ve done us really proud, good luck in the future, not only have you been a professional footballer, but your also a lovely person, with a great personality, keep the BYROM family pros, we’re hoping to see a lot more of you in the future, take care of your lovely partner Beth, love and God bless from grandma and grandad xxx

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  3. Great times at the boro when you were there and you played a full part in bringing those times to us! Good luck in your future endeavours!

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  4. Great memories. Those are up there in the top 5 most memorable Stevenage games for me, and I have probably covered 1500 or so games!

    You were always there to step up when most needed. And those goals, along with the one at Crawley……. well. No need to say more.

    How many times did I drive your Ford Focus up and down the motorway for you? Great times indeed.

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