John Beck (footballer)
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|Full name||John Alexander Beck|
|Date of birth||25 May 1954|
|Place of birth||Edmonton, England|
|1972–1976||Queens Park Rangers||40||(1)|
|1992–1994||Preston North End|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
As a manager, he had a highly successful spell in charge of Cambridge United in the early 1990s, when he guided the club to two successive promotions and two successive quarter-final appearances in the FA Cup. 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 fifth in the Second Division, their highest ever league finish..
Beck started his playing career at Queens Park Rangers signing in May 1972 and made his debut in the 3–1 win against Leyton Orient in December 1972. Beck was unable to hold down a regular place in the immensely successful QPR side of the mid 1970s, competing with England captain Gerry Francis and Scottish international Don Masson for the creative midfield role. In 1976, the year that QPR finished second to Liverpool in the First Division, he moved to Coventry City after playing 40 league games for Rangers, scoring once. The 1977–78 season saw John Beck playing in what was arguably Coventry's most exciting top-flight team of all time. Gordon Milne's side containing Tommy Hutchison, Mick Ferguson, Ian Wallace, Terry Yorath, Graham Oakey, Bobby MacDonald and Jim Blyth played scintillating attacking football that swept many teams aside, often by large margins of victory, although they failed to win any silverware or qualify for the UEFA Cup.
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, with Cambridge mid table in the Fourth Division. In his first season United won the Fourth Division playoffs, and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup - a rare 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 (something which has still yet to be achieved in the English Football League) 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 for the success that he brought the club. 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. That summer, he had sold top scorer Dion Dublin to Manchester United for £1million - although the player spent just two seasons at Old Trafford, he played top flight football for more than a decade and was capped four times by England. Other successful players to appear under Beck at Cambridge included striker Steve Claridge (who scored Leicester City's promotion-clinching goal in the 1996 Division One playoff final and the winning goal in their League Cup triumph a year later), and defenders Alan Kimble (who played seven seasons in the Premier League after joining Wimbledon) and Gary Rowett (who went on to play for four different clubs in the Premier League).
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. In his final season at Preston, he signed future England captain David Beckham on loan from Manchester United.
Beck's next stop was at Lincoln City in 1995. 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 Licence.
As a manager
- 1989–90: Fourth Division play-off winner (promotion to Third Division) – Cambridge United
- 1990–91: Third Division champion (promotion to Second Division) – Cambridge United
- "BBC Sport - Football - Former Cambridge boss John Beck takes charge at Histon". BBC News. 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- "When Saturday Comes - Cambridge United 1991". Wsc.co.uk. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- "FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP | The Crazy Gang's eccentric outcast". BBC News. 2000-05-01. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- "Crisis deepens at Poppies as Beck departs". Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. 29 September 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- Taylor, Daniel (5 October 2013). "Why the future of English football should not be about John Beck". The Observer. Retrieved 8 October 2013.