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Kevin Beattie

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Kevin Beattie
Kevin Beattie.jpg
Beattie in 2007
Personal information
Full name Thomas Kevin Beattie
Date of birth (1953-12-18)18 December 1953
Place of birth Carlisle, England
Date of death 16 September 2018(2018-09-16) (aged 64)
Place of death Ipswich, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]
Playing position Central defender
Youth career
1971–1972 Ipswich Town
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1972–1981 Ipswich Town 228 (24)
1982 Colchester United 4 (0)
1982–1983 Middlesbrough 4 (0)
1985–1986 Barnet
Harwich & Parkeston
Sandvikens IF
Kongsberg IF
Nybergsund IL-Trysil
Clacton Town
Total 237 (24)
National team
1975–1977 England 9 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Thomas Kevin Beattie (18 December 1953 – 16 September 2018) was an English footballer. Born into poverty, he played at both professional and international levels as a central defender. He spent the majority of his playing career at Ipswich Town with whom he won both the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. He was also named the inaugural PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of the 1972–73 season and featured, alongside many of his Ipswich team-mates, in the film Escape to Victory.

The early part of Beattie's life was a tale of rags to riches. A playing career that included some controversy, notably when he went missing when selected for England's under-23 team, was marked by injuries. After retirement from playing, he descended into unemployment, alcohol abuse and contemplated suicide before finding purpose once more and a new career in later life in commenting on football on the television and radio.

Beattie has been called Ipswich Town's best ever player by many pundits and polls. Former Ipswich (and later England) manager Bobby Robson called him the best England player he had ever seen.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Kevin Beattie was born in Carlisle on 18 December 1953. His family lived in the Botcherby estate and he was one of nine children: five boys and four girls.[2] Christened Thomas Kevin Beattie, he became known by his middle name, as his father was also named Thomas Beattie.[3] Beattie's mother was a cleaner at a Lipton tea shop, whilst his father worked for the National Coal Board, delivering coal.[3] Thomas also played football as a goalkeeper and once had a trial with Aston Villa, however, he turned down an offer to join the club as he could earn more working for the Coal Board.[4] After Thomas was forced to give up work due to a back problem, the family suffered financially and were often short of food, leading to the young Beattie taking fruit and vegetables from local allotments.[5] In later life, Beattie reminisced, "There would be times I would have nothing to eat for two or three days, unless my dad won a game of dominoes at the pub and got the fish and chips in. ... Even at that age, football was a release for me."[6] His father was also an alcoholic: Beattie reflected, "I didn't get on very well with my dad, if he couldn't have a drink, it was trouble ... I would hear the rows, hide under the bed and put my fingers in my ears."[6]

Beattie supported his local football team, Carlisle United, and idolised the players.[6] As a child, he once stood in the rain and managed to get the autographs of Allan Ross and Chris Balderstone, but felt "heartbroken" when Hughie McIlmoyle appeared and said, "I haven't got time, son. I'll get my hair wet", and "ran off. ... even then I thought, 'If I ever become a footballer, I'll never refuse to sign an autograph'."[6]

He attended St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic junior school, where he began playing football for the school team, initially as a goalkeeper.[4] His family were unable to afford the football boots he needed, but a teacher named Mr Raffety bought a pair for him.[4] Beattie soon became a forward and modelled himself on Chelsea's Peter Osgood.[7]

Although Beattie passed his eleven-plus, his family could not afford the grammar school uniform, so he moved to St Patrick's Roman Catholic senior school.[7] He began playing for Blackfriars, a local youth team managed by Raffety, and then, at the age of 14, for a pub team named The Magpie, alongside his father.[7] Raffety recommended him to Carlisle United, but the club did not have a youth team.[7] Beattie was also told that Celtic had shown an interest in him, but had been erroneously told that he was not a Catholic, the traditional religion of the majority of the club's fanbase.[8][9] He left school at 14 and subsequently worked as a machine fitter and delivery boy in factories, a warehouse, a dry cleaner and then a furniture company.[10]



Ipswich Town F.C.[edit]


Aged 15, Beattie was playing for Blackfriars on Sunday and for a club called St Augustine on Saturdays, when he was spotted by a football scout and offered a trial with Liverpool.[10] Beattie travelled to Liverpool and impressed manager Bill Shankly sufficiently for him to be invited back to sign for the club. Beattie returned to Liverpool on his own, but nobody from the club arrived to meet him at Lime Street station. With nothing but his boots and his train ticket, he returned home on the next train to Carlisle.[11] Shankly would later describe missing out on signing Beattie as amongst one of his biggest mistakes.[12] Beattie joined Ipswich Town as an apprentice soon after, when Ipswich manager Bobby Robson made sure that Beattie was met at Euston station in London, played in a youth match at Fulham, and was accompanied all the way to Ipswich's Portman Road ground by chief scout, Ron Gray.[13] Robson told Gray, "If you miss him, you've lost your job".[14] The poverty Beattie came from was evident when he arrived in Ipswich wearing his father's shoes, as he did not have "a proper pair of his own", so when Ipswich signed him, they immediately bought him some clothes.[14] As a youth, Beattie played as a striker, but Robson converted him into a defender; Beattie said in later life that the move suited him well, as it meant he could see all the play in front of him.[14]

Bobby Robson, Beattie's first professional manager and a lifelong admirer of the player

Now earning a wage, Beattie tried to help support his family: "My first wage at Ipswich was £5 a week and I used to send £3 home to help the family. But my dad was just boozing it away."[6] He also stepped in to prevent domestic violence between his parents: "There were times when he knocked my mam around, and in the end I had to come up and sort him out, good and proper. I'm not proud of that. But after that, my mam and dad got on so much better ... There were some difficult times, but we were still a very close family. I might not have seen eye-to-eye with my dad a lot of the time, but I loved him. My mam and dad had their rows, but they loved each other too."[6]


Beattie was given his senior debut aged 18 against Manchester United in the opening Football League First Division match of the 1972–73 season in England's top division.[15][16] Ipswich won the game 2–1, and afterwards he asked United's Bobby Charlton for his autograph; Charlton told Beattie that his play reminded him of Duncan Edwards and that, in years to come, he would be the one signing autographs.[14] He scored his first league goal for the club two weeks later at Elland Road in a 3–3 draw with Leeds United.[17] Beattie featured 38 times for Ipswich in the league that season, and scored five goals,[17] as Ipswich ended the season in fourth place, their best finish since the Championship-winning 1961–62 season under Alf Ramsey.[18] Beattie was also part of the 1972–73 Texaco Cup-winning team, won against Norwich City 4–2 on aggregate over two legs.[18] Beattie was named the inaugural winner of the Ipswich Town Player of the Year award.[19]

The following season was Beattie's and Ipswich's first appearances in a European competition, having qualified for the UEFA Cup as a result of their fourth position in the league the previous season.[18] Beattie played in aggregate victories over Real Madrid (1–0), Lazio (6–4) and FC Twente (3–1), before the side lost on penalties to Lokomotive Leipzig, Beattie having scored his first European goal in the home leg.[20][21] Beattie appeared in all 42 league games for Ipswich that season (along with Mick Mills), made 15 other appearances in cup competitions,[22] and was awarded the inaugural PFA Young Player of the Year.[23] He was also once again voted his club's Player of the Year.[19] Early in the 1974–75 season, Beattie was involved in mild controversy when his tackle at Portman Road broke Stoke City's John Ritchie's leg. In the return fixture at Stoke's Victoria Ground, Beattie's teammate Allan Hunter was involved in an incident that left Stoke's Denis Smith with a broken leg.[24] The crowd erupted in anger, directed at Beattie; Bobby Robson noted "There was a cauldron for 20 minutes. Kevin Beattie had to beat 28,000 people out there."[25] Later that season, Beattie was awarded the captaincy for a game, against his home team Carlisle United.[26] Having played 52 games and scored 6 goals during the season for Ipswich,[22] Beattie was selected as a member of the First Division Team of the Year.[27] He had helped his club reach the semi-final of the FA Cup and finish the league season in third position.[28]

Beattie made 36 appearances for Ipswich during the 1975–76 season, scoring 4 goals.[22] Ipswich finished sixth and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round.[29] Towards the end of the season, Beattie began to suffer from severe back pain, something he blamed on an injury from which he suffered as a child while helping his father carry sacks of coal.[30] Despite the relative lack of success with his club, he was selected in the First Division Team of the Year for the second year in a row.[31] The 1976–77 season started well for Ipswich with victories over Liverpool and Manchester United, and a club record-equalling 7–0 win over West Bromwich Albion. West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper John Osborne said of Beattie's long-range goal that he regarded himself as fortunate he had not touched it as it would have knocked his hand off.[32] Beattie's season was prematurely curtailed with a self-inflicted injury.[33] Stoking a bonfire at his home, he decided to add petrol; the ensuing flare-up gave him serious burns to his face and neck,[34] leading to him missing six matches.[14] Before the injury, Ipswich were challenging for the league title, but, in Beattie's absence, the side lost four of their last six matches and ultimately fell five points short of winning the championship.[14] He played in 34 games for Ipswich that season, scoring 5 goals, and was selected for the PFA Team of the Year for the third time in a row, along with teammates Mick Mills and Brian Talbot.[31]

Beattie was fit to play by the start of the 1977–78 season,[35] and despite a mixed start, including a 4–0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, he was selected for England once again, this time against Luxembourg. A knee injury in the league game preceding the international fixture forced Beattie to withdraw from the starting lineup to the bench. Further investigation revealed he had damaged cartilage in his knee, which required an operation.[36] Following three weeks' recuperation, and a cortisone injection, Beattie was restored to the Ipswich squad in time to play in the third round UEFA Cup home leg against FC Barcelona. Ipswich won the fixture 3–0,[37] and even though Beattie suffered a reaction in his knee, he insisted he was able to play in the away leg. Robson disagreed and he was "wrapped up in cotton wool" for the away leg which Ipswich lost by the same scoreline, and subsequently were knocked out on penalties.[38] Cortisone injections became commonplace for Beattie, who returned to the team in time to feature in the FA Cup fourth round victory against Hartlepool.[39] Although Ipswich's league form was poor, they were safe from relegation by the time they faced West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup semi-final at Highbury, a game for which Beattie was given the all-clear.[39] A 3–1 victory saw Ipswich into the final, yet the following day Beattie's knee was once again swollen and his participation in the final was in jeopardy.[40] According to Beattie, "the boss secretly told me that if I felt fit enough to play then I was in".[41] Robson did not announce the Cup final team until the last minute: it included a formation change to include five midfielders and Paul Mariner as a lone striker – and Beattie in defence.[42] Following Roger Osborne's second-half winner, Ipswich won the cup, 1–0.[43] Beattie had three cortisone injections to get through the final.[44] Following the success, Beattie and teammates Robin Turner and David Geddis were all awarded the freedom of Carlisle.[45] Beattie had represented Ipswich 21 times during the course of the season, without scoring a goal.[22]

Shortly into the 1978–79 season, Beattie suffered problems with his other knee. A third, then a fourth operation followed, and he was confined to treatment and physiotherapy,[46] only, in his words, "wheeled out for the really big games".[47] Overall, he made 26 appearances that season, scoring twice.[22] The 1979–80 season saw Beattie make just twelve appearances, two as substitute, and score twice, as his post-match recuperation took weeks, not days.[22][48] He also played a "bit-part" in the following season, and usually as a striker instead of his usual position of centre half. However, his defensive role in the two-leg victory over the Czechoslovakian team Bohemians, in the second round of the 1980–81 UEFA Cup, for which he was awarded man of the match, proved vital to Ipswich's season.[49] Although irregularly selected as a result of his injuries, Beattie played in the fourth round first leg 4–1 away victory over AS Saint-Étienne whose team included Michel Platini and Johnny Rep.[50] Ipswich won the home leg 3–1 without Beattie.[51] Beattie played his last match for Ipswich in April 1981, in an FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City in which he broke his arm.[52] Ipswich won the UEFA Cup in 1981 but Beattie was not presented with a winners medal as he did not play in the final.[1] He received his 1981 UEFA Cup winners medal in 2008, following a petition organised by Rob Finch, the ghostwriter of Beattie's autobiography.[53]

Beattie retired due to injury in December 1981,[54] following five knee operations in four years.[23] His testimonial game took place the following March against a Dynamo Moscow XI.[55][56]

Later career[edit]

Beattie began training with Norwich City under manager Ken Brown who offered Beattie a short-term contract.[57] The offer was soon withdrawn following Ipswich's reluctance to release Beattie to their local rivals.[57] Instead, Beattie joined Colchester United in the summer of 1982, under player-manager and former teammate Allan Hunter.[57] Beattie made a total of six appearances for them,[58] but following John Lyons' suicide and Hunter's subsequent resignation,[59] Beattie decided to move on and signed for Middlesbrough where he made five appearances during the 1982–83 season. He scored once, a penalty, in a 2–0 FA Cup victory over Notts County.[60] His time at the club ended following a serious groin injury sustained against north-east rivals Newcastle United.[61]

Dropping into non-league football, Beattie signed for Barry Fry's Barnet, joining another ex-England international Steve Whitworth.[62] Injury and poor lifestyle choices once again curtailed Beattie's spell at the club.[62] After failing to secure any coaching work, Beattie took up work as a labourer, and joined local team Harwich & Parkeston to supplement his income.[63] Accepting an offer from Ipswich's former scout Ron Gray, Beattie joined Swedish second-tier side Sandvikens IF under manager and former Swedish international player Thomas Nordahl.[64] Soon after, Nordahl suddenly resigned and under new management, the club let Beattie go. He moved to Norway, signing for fourth division club Kongsberg IF, where he scored more than 60 goals in his first season.[65] He signed for Norwegian second division club Nybergsund IL-Trysil in 1988, making five appearances for them before moving back England.[66][67] He also played for Clacton Town.[15][68] He assisted Mike Walker and Duncan Forbes at Norwich City as a scout during Walker's time as manager,[69][70] and performed a similar role for Alan Ball Jr. at Portsmouth.[70] Beattie's first foray into coaching was a part-time position at his hometown club Carlisle under Roddy Collins in the 2002–03 season.[71][72] Collins was sacked early in the 2003–04 season,[73] and Beattie left the club, subsequently opting to coach school children in the United States.[74] His last coaching position was a short spell with Barry Fry at Peterborough United.[74]


Former Ipswich manager and then-England manager Alf Ramsey selected Beattie to represent the England under-23 team during the 1972–73 English domestic season.[75] He made his debut in November 1972 against Wales under-23s at Wrexham, winning 3–0.[76] Beattie's final game also saw his only goal at that level, in a 2–0 victory, once again over Wales.[76]

Beattie's senior England debut came under Don Revie in a 5–0 victory over Cyprus at Wembley in April 1975.[52][23] Beattie managed to score, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper.[14] Beattie scored his only goal for his country in a 5–1 victory over Scotland in the 1974–75 British Home Championship in May 1975.[77] Perry Groves, who played alongside Beattie at Colchester United,[14] describes how Beattie, ostensibly playing at left-back, emerged to meet a cross from Kevin Keegan, beat two Scottish defenders and "looped a great header" into the goal, voted one of the top 50 goals England have scored.[14] His final game for England was in October 1977 against Luxembourg in a qualification match for the 1978 FIFA World Cup.[52] Beattie earned nine caps between 1975 and 1977.[78]

Playing style[edit]

Perry Groves, who began his career playing alongside Beattie, included him in his book of 20 "Football Heroes".

Beattie was renowned for his strength, the nickname "Beast" reflecting that, but also his quality on the ball (with the resultant other nickname of "Diamond").[79] Robson described him as "the quickest defender I ever saw ... with a left foot like a howitzer".[79] Perry Groves noted that Beattie's only shortcoming appeared to be his inability to throw the ball far. When Beattie arrived at Colchester, "into his thirties" and with his knees "all shot", "he was still the quickest player at the club over ten yards by a long way."[14] Groves recalls Robson's summary of Beattie's strengths as a player:

"What a player the boy was... He could climb higher than the crossbar and still head the ball down. He had the sweetest left foot I've ever seen and could hit 60-yard passes, without looking, that eliminated six opposition players from the game. He had the strength of a tank, was lightning quick and he could tackle."[14]

Incidents and controversies[edit]

In December 1974, Beattie was involved in an incident that prompted newspaper headlines across the quality and tabloid press.[80] Called up to represent England at under-23 level against Scotland national under-21 football team at Pittodrie,[81] Beattie was "put on the right train by his manager Bobby Robson", yet failed to arrive in Manchester.[80] That Beattie was "found" playing dominoes with his father in a pub in Carlisle gave legs to the story, although England manager Don Revie sent Beattie a telegram wishing him a happy birthday, the following day.[80] Groves' account, 30 years later, is that Beattie's train pulled into Carlisle station, he saw the name, felt homesick and went to visit his father.[14] Media coverage at the time ascribed Beattie's lapses to pressure, with factors cited including his then four-week-old daughter, his rags-to-riches climb and a virus.[80] However, subsequent reports that he then missed training for Ipswich, allegedly preferring to stay in bed when passed fit by the club doctor, fuelled the story further.[80] Ipswich suspended him for one match.[80]

Beattie accepted a lit cigarette from a fan and smoked it while collecting his FA Cup winner's medal in 1978.[14] According to Groves, Beattie smoked 20 cigarettes a day for the duration of his playing career.[14] He also missed part of pre-season for Colchester by "straining too much" while defecating, resulting in a pulled stomach muscle.[14]

Post-football and family life[edit]

Beattie found himself unemployed. Groves writes about how the unemployment office where Beattie would sign on was so close to Ipswich's home ground that he would see players arriving in their "flash motors", while he signed autographs.[14] Beattie declined into alcohol abuse and was on one occasion, given the last rites when his pancreas "gave up".[14] He thought about suicide, before caring for his wife who was seriously unwell and then "got his life back on the right track".[14] Nonetheless, "despite having received £50,000 from a testimonial match with Ipswich ... Beattie lived for much of the rest of his life in straitened circumstances", and received financial help from the Professional Footballers' Association.[82] In May 2012, Beattie was convicted of benefit fraud and given a 12-week curfew.[83] He had failed to disclose his earnings from radio, for fear of losing Income Support.[82] He later apologised and described it as a "silly mistake".[84]

In later years, Beattie worked for broadcast media:[23] he commented on football for BBC Radio Suffolk until the day before his death.[85] He also wrote a book: "The Greatest Footballer England Never Had", published in 1988.[6]

On 16 September 2018, Beattie died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 64.[85] He was survived by his wife, Margaret, and three daughters, Emma, Sarah and Louise.[82][86] His funeral will be held at the crematorium at Nacton on 26 October 2018.[87]


Beattie was once described by Bobby Robson as the best England player he had ever seen,[83] and that "he could have been as good as Duncan Edwards."[79] Beattie was inducted into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame in 2008,[88] was voted numerous times as Ipswich Town's "best ever player",[52] and features as one of Perry Groves' 20 "Football Heroes" in a book published in 2009.[14]

Beattie featured in the film Escape to Victory. His skills were shown on the pitch for Michael Caine's character, and the two became friends.[79] Beattie had a cooler relationship with Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the film: "There weren’t too many that got on that well with him and after I beat him in an arm wrestle — first my right arm and then my left — he didn’t speak to me again".[79]


Ipswich Town


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  • Finch, Rob (2007). The Greatest Footballer England Never Had: The Kevin Beattie Story. Cult Figure Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9554884-0-5.
  • Hayes, Dean (2006). The Who's Who of Ipswich Town. Breedon Books. ISBN 978-1-85983-515-9.
  • Lynch, Tony (1995). The Official P.F.A. Footballers Heroes. London: Random House. ISBN 978-0-09-179135-3.