* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
John Alexander Beck (born 25 May 1954) is an English former footballer and manager. As a player he made nearly 500 league appearances between 1972 and 1988.
He is also known for his successful period as manager of Cambridge United from 1990 to 1992, where he won two successive promotions. Beck took the club from the Fourth Division to the Second and very nearly to the new Premier League at the end of the 1991–92 season, where they ended their campaign in the Top 5 of the Second Division, their highest ever league finish. In 2010, he was appointed manager of Conference National club Histon, but resigned two games into the 2010–11 season.
Beck's career was ended by injury in 1989, and he was appointed Assistant Manager at Cambridge. Following the resignation of Chris Turner he was appointed manager January 1990. In his first season United won the Fourth Division playoffs, and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, an exceptional achievement for a Fourth Division side. The following season (1990–91) they won the Third Division title after an excellent finish to the season saw them climb from 10th to top in less than three months, and they repeated the feat of reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals. During the Summer, Beck turned down the opportunity to manage Leicester City, saying he wanted to take the club all the way to the First Division. In fact he very nearly achieved this, as in 1991–92 they finished 5th in the Second Division, the highest position ever achieved by the club, but lost to Leicester City in the play-off semi-finals, ending their hopes of a third successive promotion and denying them the chance of becoming Premier League founder members.
Beck's long ball playing style, despite its success, was heavily criticised in the media, and by fans and managers of other clubs, particularly Glenn Hoddle then of Swindon Town. Their style of play was similar to that of Wimbledon, who had climbed from the Fourth Division to the First in four seasons leading up to 1986, staying there for 14 years and winning an FA Cup just two seasons after promotion.
However, he remained popular with United fans. He also oversaw many unorthodox developments at the club, including the tactical repositioning of the away team dugout, ensuring the grass around the corner area was longer so as to slow the ball down when played in that part of the pitch, and the practice of throwing buckets of cold water over players before a match.
The club made a poor start to the 1992–93 season, and Beck was dismissed in October 1992, marking the start of a sharp decline for the club; Cambridge ended the season relegated from the new Division One and just two years after that they fell into Division Three.
He made a quick comeback with Preston North End, but was unable to prevent them from being relegated to Division Two. He spent two more seasons at Deepdale, enduring successive Division Three playoff disappointments, before resigning.
Beck's next stop was at Lincoln City. They won automatic promotion to Division Two in 1998, but Beck had been controversially sacked just weeks earlier.
Beck returned to Cambridge in March 2001, and kept them in Division Two, but he resigned the following November with relegation looking increasingly likely.
After a short period out of football, Beck became assistant manager to Steve Fallon at Histon, in what proved to be the most successful period in the club's history as the club rose from the lower leagues up to the Conference National. The club even came close to being promoted to the Football League in the 2008–09 season, but missed out following a 2–1 aggregate defeat to Torquay Utd in the play-offs. In September 2009 however, Beck was sacked from the club after a fall-out with Fallon. Beck once again remained out of football until 21 May 2010, when he returned to Histon as manager, after Fallon himself had been sacked in January of that year, and interim manager Alan Lewer declined to apply for the job on a permanent basis. However, Beck resigned from the club on 19 August, following a league defeat away to AFC Wimbledon. Beck was appointed manager of Evo-Stik Southern Premier League club Kettering Town on 18 June 2012. However he parted company with the club in September 2012. As of October 2013, Beck was working for the Football Association in coach education at the St George's Park National Football Centre, training coaches working towards their UEFA B License.