Beattie in 2007
|Full name||Thomas Kevin Beattie|
|Date of birth||18 December 1953|
|Place of birth||Carlisle, England|
|Date of death||16 September 2018(aged 64)|
|Place of death||Ipswich, England|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Playing position||Central defender|
|Harwich & Parkeston|
|* 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 career at Ipswich Town with whom he won both the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. He was also named the 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. In later life, he commented on football on the radio. He has been called Ipswich Town's best ever player by many pundits and polls and former Ipswich (and later England) manager Bobby Robson called him "the best English player he had ever seen".
Thomas Kevin Beattie was born in Carlisle on 18 December 1953 into a family living in the Botcherby estate and was one of nine children; five boys and four girls. He was christened Thomas Kevin Beattie, but became known by his middle name as his father was also named Thomas Beattie. His mother was a cleaner at a Lipton tea shop, whilst his father worked for the National Coal Board delivering coal; his father also played football as a goalkeeper and once had a trial with Aston Villa. However, he turned down the offer to join the club as he could earn more working at the Coal Board. After his father was forced to give up work due to a back problem, the family suffered financially and were often short of food, leading to Beattie taking fruit and vegetables from local allotments. He attended St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic junior school, where he began playing football for the school team, initially as a goalkeeper. His family were unable to afford the football boots he needed, but a teacher named Mr Raffety bought a pair for him. Beattie soon became a forward and modelled himself on Chelsea's Peter Osgood.
Although Beattie passed his eleven plus, his family could not afford the grammar school uniform and he moved up to St Patrick's Roman Catholic senior school. 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. Raffety recommended him to Carlisle United, the club Beattie supported, but the club did not have a youth team. Beattie was also told that Celtic had shown an interest in him, but had been erroneously told that he was not a Catholic. He left school at 14 and subsequently worked as a machine fitter and delivery boy, in factories, a warehouse, a dry cleaners and then a furniture company. Still playing for Blackfriars on Sunday and for a club called St Augustine on Saturdays, Beattie was spotted by a scout for Liverpool and offered a trial.
Having been invited to talks with Liverpool's Bill Shankly when Beattie was a 15-year-old, nobody from the club arrived to meet Beattie at Lime Street station. Shankly would later describe missing out on signing Beattie as amongst one of his biggest mistakes.
He joined Ipswich Town in July 1971. Ipswich manager Bobby Robson made sure that Beattie was met at Euston Station and accompanied all the way to Portman Road by his chief scout, Ron Gray. Robson told Gray, "If you miss him, you've lost your job". His family were poor: he arrived in Ipswich wearing his father's shoes, as he didn't have "a proper pair of his own" and when Ipswich signed him, they immediately bought him some clothes. 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.
Beattie was given his senior debut aged 18 against Manchester United in August 1972. After the game, Beattie asked United's Bobby Charlton for his autograph; Charlton told him that the youth reminded him of Duncan Edwards and that in years to come Beattie would be signing autographs. He scored his first league goal for the club two weeks later at Elland Road in a 3–3 draw with Leeds United. Beattie featured 38 times for Ipswich in the league that season, and scored five goals. He was also named the Ipswich Town F.C. Player of the Year.
The following season, Beattie played in all 42 games for his club (along with Mick Mills) and was awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year (the inaugural winner of the award), and once again was voted his club's player of the year. Beattie was selected as a member of the First Division Team of the Year for the 1974–75, 1975–76 and 1976–77 seasons. He also won the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981. He received his 1981 UEFA Cup winners medal in 2008, following a petition organised by Rob Finch, the ghostwriter of Beattie's autobiography, after he had missed the final due to injury.
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. He retired due to injury in December 1981, following five knee operations in four years. He later returned to play for Colchester United, Middlesbrough, Harwich & Parkeston, Sandvikens IF, Kongsberg IF, Nybergsund IL-Trysil and Clacton Town.
Beattie earned nine caps for the England national team between 1975 and 1977. His debut came under Don Revie in a 5–0 victory over Cyprus at Wembley in April 1975. Beattie managed to score, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper. 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. Perry Groves 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. His final game for England was in October 1977 against Luxembourg in a qualification match for the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
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"). Robson described him as "the quickest defender I ever saw ... with a left foot like a howitzer". Perry Groves, who played alongside Beattie at Colchester United, 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." 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."
Incidents and controversies
In December 1974, Beattie was involved in an incident that prompted newspaper headlines across the quality and tabloid press. Called up to represent England at under-23 level, Beattie was "put on the right train by his manager Bobby Robson", yet failed to arrive in Manchester. 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. 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. Media coverage at the time ascribed Beattie's lapses to pressure, with factors cited inlcuding his then four-week-old daughter, his rags-to-riches climb and a virus. 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. Ipswich suspended him for one match.
Beattie missed a portion of the 1977 season with a self-inflicted injury. Stoking a bonfire at his home, he decided to add petrol; the ensuing flare-up gave him burns necessitating him missing six matches. Before the injury, Ipswich were challenging for the league title, but during his absence the side lost four of the six matches and they ultimately fell five points short of winning the championship.
Beattie accepted a lit cigarette from a fan and smoked it while collecting his FA Cup winner's medal in 1978. According to Groves, Beattie smoked 20 cigarettes a day for the duration of his playing career. He also missed part of pre-season for Colchester by "straining too much" while defecating, resulting in a pulled stomach muscle.
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. Beattie declined into alcohol abuse and was on one occasion, given the last rites when his pancreas "gave up". He thought about suicide, before caring for his wife who was seriously unwell and then "got his life back on the right track".
On 16 September 2018, Beattie died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 64.
He was once described by Bobby Robson as the best England player he had ever seen, and that "he could have been as good as Duncan Edwards.” Beattie was inducted into the Ipswich Town F.C. Hall of Fame in 2008, was voted numerous times as Ipswich Town's "best ever player", and features as one of Perry Groves' 20 "Football Heroes" in a book published in 2009.
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. 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".
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