Kevin Beattie: The shining star of Bobby Robson’s first great Ipswich Town team
- Credit: Archant
Terry Hunt, an Ipswich Town fan for more than 50 years, pays tribute to Kevin Beattie, the club’s greatest-ever player
On a cold spring day in 1975, my sister Karen and I scrawled “Kevin Beattie walks on water” in six-foot high letters on the golden beach of Carbis Bay in Cornwall.
Yes, I know it was rather blasphemous, but back then we Ipswich Town fans really did believe that our brilliant young player was capable of performing miracles.
We had never seen anything like Beattie before - and he remains undoubtedly the club’s greatest player, despite formidable competition.
His power, his pace, his aerial ability, the thunderbolt shot...it all added up to one fantastic player.
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When he made his England debut against Cyprus in that same spring of 1975, it would surely be the first cap of 100.
Memorably, he scored his only England goal with a header in a thumping of Scotland at Wembley.
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But, as we all know, this colossus only won nine caps – all at left-back – as injury setbacks took their toll.
For Ipswich, I recall a brilliant goal on the last day of the 1974-75 season when he bulldozed his way through the entire West Ham defence. Some small revenge for our controversial defeat to the Hammers in the FA Cup semi-final.
If you want to witness his raw power just search the internet for his goal in our 7-0 demolition of West Brom in 1976. You will never see a ball struck with such awesome power.
There were comparisons with Duncan Edwards, the greatest of the Busby Babes to die at Munich.
I never saw Edwards play, so cannot comment, but just being mentioned in the same sentence is some compliment.
What I do know is that Bobby Robson described Beattie as the greatest English player he had seen.
I know I’m biased, but I would agree with that. Yes, he really was that special.
Beattie was the shining star of Robson’s first great Ipswich team. His partnership with Allan Hunter formed the bedrock of the team which competed in Europe season after season, and eventually won richly-deserved silverware in the shape of the FA Cup in 1978.
He played his last game in the FA Cup semi-defeat to Manchester City in 1981. With cruel irony, he broke his arm.
The sight of a stricken Beattie leaving the pitch for what we all feared would be the final time was just so sad.
Beattie is probably Town’s most loved player. Much of that affection, of course, is due to his brilliance as a player. But there is another aspect - Beattie the chaotic, but totally lovable, man.
He would often say that his brains were in his boots, and Robson described him as being as “daft as a brush.”
After his playing days were over, he got himself into so many “scrapes.” None of them were malicious – they were all because he was an innocent abroad.
He was never good with money, despite earning very good wages as a player, and he and his beloved wife Maggie lived in a council house in the Chantry estate in Ipswich. I often thought about the riches earned by present-day players who, frankly, aren’t good enough to tie The Beat’s bootlaces.
But Beattie was never bitter, and never felt sorry for himself, despite all of his worries in later life.
He also found great happiness with his family – Maggie, his children, and grandchildren.
“Hello pal, how are you?” would always be his cheery greeting.
I remember having to interview him about one of his “scrapes” and finding him working on a building site in Stowmarket. It felt so wrong, questioning my hero like that.
The last time he called me, he was trying to track down a photo from the EADT and Star of the time the army brought a tank to Portman Road for him to be pictured with it.
“Because they said I was as powerful as a tank, pal,” he reminded me.
They were right, Beat.
You were every bit as strong as a tank.
You were also my hero.
I won’t be the only Town fan to shed a tear at the news.
Rest In Peace, Beat.
Special player, special man. You’ve gone, but you have left us so many magical memories.