Beardsmore: I hit the boss with a snowball!
Russell Beardsmore is the latest former Manchester United player to appear on UTD Podcast.
One of the first wave of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’, the Wigan-born midfielder made his United debut in September 1988. In only his second league start for the club, he inspired us to a thrilling Old Trafford victory against Liverpool, champions at the time, on New Year’s Day 1989.
Russell made 73 first-team appearances for the club, scoring four goals and winning Cup Winners’ Cup, European Super Cup and Charity Shield medals, before leaving in 1993.
He subsequently spent five years with Bournemouth before retiring and eventually returning to his native North West, where he now works as one of Manchester United Foundation’s BTEC coaches.
Beardsmore’s career is covered in detail in the new episode of UTD Podcast, presented by Helen Evans and David May. In one of the funniest extracts, the 52-year-old regales us with tales from his youth, when he was Old Trafford’s resident prankster – and Alex Ferguson’s tormentor-in-chief.
“On the away trips on the coach – I used to get the blame even when it wasn’t me,” Russell recalled.
“The boss would work his way up the coach and the toilet was near the back. I’d make sure I wasn't in the seat next to it. I’d see the boss come to the toilet and as he’d go in I’d get the spare key and put the key in the lock so he couldn’t get out. Then I’d go and sit back down and pretend I was asleep.
“You could hear him push it once, then again and then he’s banging on it. Then I’d get the key and slightly loosen it and sit back down. As soon as he got out, he’d go ‘BEARDSMORE! It’s always you…’
“It probably was always me, but in a nice way. Not in a troublesome, horrible way, just pranks.”
The winger’s most memorable caper, though, came at The Cliff training ground on a particularly cold and snowy day.
“The first team were training at The Cliff and it was about three or four inches deep in snow,” Beardsmore picks up the story. “There was one door you could go in and out of.
“When all the reserve-team lads came out, the first team would still be inside. So I had an idea. I said, 'Let’s hide behind the cars and when the first person comes out, we’ll pepper them with snowballs’.
“All of a sudden, the players came out and the gaffer’s saying stop it. We’ve peppered all of them. Archie [Knox] saw the funny side of it straightaway, but the gaffer by now is getting a bit irritated because he wants to go and have some lunch.
“He said, 'The next one [to throw a snowball] gets a week’s fine!’ So I’ve got the snowball, I’m still behind the car and the boss comes along. He’s about 10, 20 yards away. He’s got his bobble hat on and I thought ‘I’ll knock his hat off’.
“It’s dropped low and hit him in the throat. He’s caught his breath. For about five seconds, you can see him going… and I’ve thought ‘oh, no’. I’ve ducked back down in a ball. What am I going to do?
“He’s snapped. The language that’s coming out and his face has gone. His head’s gone. ‘Who did it?’
“And all the others go [pointing] ‘him!’ I stood up and he’s swearing at me. He says ‘see me after training – it’s always you’.”
Beardsmore's manager had the last laugh, with his inventive - and ever-so-slightly-embarrassing - method of punishment.
“He told me he had a task for me. 'You’re going to come in tomorrow night, there’s a training session here, and the next week and the week after.’
“I was 19, 20. I turned up and it was the Under-14s. I had to train with the Under-14s for three weeks at The Cliff, half-past six until eight. That was my punishment. There’s me as a senior player kicking around with them!
“It could have been a lot worse, but that one people ask me about and it’s a god-honest true story.
“Hitting him there [in the throat] could only happen to me – and people wonder why I got released!”