by Kieran Yap (8/3/23)
Above: Angie Beard in action for Western United against Western Sydney Wanderers. Photo: Western United.
Angela Beard’s last act in the A-League Women was to lift the trophy above her head on Grand Final day. Now, the former Melbourne Victory captain has returned to Australia to help the league’s newest club push for finals in their first season.
Beard is a favourite among Victorian football fans from her time with Victory and in the NPL with Calder United. After two seasons in Europe with Fortuna Hjørring in Denmark, she is ready to once again patrol the left wing under a familiar coach.
“Western United have been in contact with me for a long time, probably since they first got approved for the A-League team,” said Beard about her homecoming.
“I’ve known Amanda (Stella) for a while. I’ve known Mark (Torcaso, head coach of Western United) for a while and the Calder girls as a whole, that was a huge chunk of my life.”
Beard’s move overseas was the culmination of years of work and a long-held ambition. She credits Torcaso with helping her achieve her aims. The majority of the football calendar was spent under his tutelage at Calder United.
She was eager for a chance to work with Torcaso again, but is grateful for the work that Western United put in to bring her back to Australia. “They fully supported me and my needs off the field and on the field,” Beard said.
“I still had six months left on my contract in Denmark. So if I was wanting to leave anywhere I would have to have a club that was fully capable of taking those responsibilities and knowing that it was part of the deal. I would have to get completely bought out or transferred away from that club.
“Western United showed complete support. They had been after me for a long time, Amanda and Mark envisioning what they wanted me to be as a player and as a person on the team as well.”
Beard arrived at Western United at a time when they needed reinforcements. They had enjoyed a barnstorming start to the season, but the league only gets tougher as the fixtures pile up. Along with another new signing Danielle Steer, she made an immediate impact in her first start.
A 5-0 thrashing of Canberra United was kickstarted by Beard’s trademark run and cross to set up multiple chances, and a goal for Steer.
Playing her natural attacking fullback role was something she cherished and looked forward to. Torcaso famously used Beard as an attacking player to great effect in their time at Calder United.
“Obviously I’ve been in Europe for a couple of years now. It was a really interesting experience. It was nice to play in the Champions League which was my first time ever doing that. The main thing for me is leading into the World Cup, I wanted to be playing with confidence, with freedom, and creativity.
“Playing as a left back in wide areas I wasn’t really doing that in Denmark, I’d kind of shifted into a centre-back role, a more defensive role. I’ve played left back, left-wing back my whole life, so it should be easy to shift back into.
Beard joins other recent returnees from Europe. This season has also seen Amy Harrison join Western Sydney after two seasons with PSV Eindhoven and Ella Mastrantonio head to Perth after stints in England and Italy’s top flights.
Beard was full of praise for the environment at Western United. Even in its formative stages, the club is trying to be an attractive destination for overseas-based footballers.
“It was a pretty seamless transition from Denmark which was a pretty professional environment, with a year-round contract and European football.
“Then coming back here… basically they’re trying to emulate a really high standard and they’re trying to be the club that people look to and aspire to be in the standards they’re trying to provide to players.”
Although the move back was relatively seamless for Beard, some things have changed in Australia. When she left, it was as the W-League Champion. She arrived back to the A-League Women and a longer season. With more improvements hoped for in the future, she says the Australian domestic league is a good place to build a career, and realise ambition.
“Extending it, and adding more teams is making it less of a stopover place and more of an actual building league where you can get to a high standard, and you can get to a national team.
“I guess I though the trend was to go Europe to try and crack into the national team but in the last couple of years, they’re trying to make it a whole lot more professional and attractive to local players and foreign players coming over.”
Although clearly glad to be home, Beard enjoyed her successful time in Denmark. While at Fortuna Hjørring, she was a league champion and achieved a long-held dream to play Champions League football. Her form also earned a call-up to the Matildas squad to play Brazil.
Much to the bemusement of her supporters at home, it was her last cap. Although World Cup Football remains a possibility and would be deserved for the serial winner and accomplished full-back.
There were also other benefits to living in Europe.
“Lifestyle wise, (In Australia), you fly two hours to get to Brisbane. In Denmark, I fly two hours I get to London, France, all these cool places which I never really experienced before.
“Even when I lived in Iceland it was the middle of COVID, so no one was travelling anywhere. That was really cool to be part of the European community and to be able to travel around the world.
“We were the only professional team in our town, it was all about football. In Europe in general, you are born, and you have a team that you support.
“It’s kind of hard being in Australia and following all these different leagues, but when you’re in Europe you can turn on the tv and watch some of the English-based girls or the Spain league. It is so much more accessible.”
Angie Beard is home now. She is primed to make an impact for Western United, more trophies are a real possibility, and if all goes to plan, she could have another big moment on Australian soil to come.