Bacon's Bites: What have Bale, Gascoigne, Cristiano Ronaldo, Beckham, Giggs, Gerrard, Hoddle and 'The Beat' all got in common? Yep, that's how good Kevin Beattie was
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Mike Bacon looks back on a week of such sadness with the loss of Ipswich Town's greatest-ever player, Kevin Beattie
The passing of Kevin Beattie has understandably caused a great outpouring of grief among Town fans and many in the football world.
I must admit I don’t think it really sunk in with me until Monday, even though I was working on Monday’s EADT and Ipswich Star papers and websites all day Sunday, where ‘The Beat’s’ passing was the only story.
I suspect that working meant my mind didn’t have time to take it in... But, like many of you reading this, it’s sunk in now.
And what a awful shock.
The man was a complete legend in every sense of the word.
A great, great footballer, a charity worker, a friend, a family man.... It wasn’t all roses of course, he had his off-field problems as well. But one thing he did have was Ipswich Town engraved on his heart.
And that’s why we all loved him so much.
It’s been a strange week.
Working in a sports department when only a couple of us actually saw Beattie play understandably left younger members of the department no doubt wondering... ‘Was he really that good?’
My two teenage boys listened to me telling them stories of ‘The Beat’... A tank, a colossus of a defender who could tackle as hard as any player I’ve ever seen, could smash a dead ball that would hit the back of the net before you blinked.. A player who could sprint as quick as any winger today... Yes, even Kylian Mbappé would have his work out dancing round Kevin Beattie in his prime.
He really was the greatest Ipswich Town player I ever saw.
And poll after poll, survey after survey doesn’t lie.
Kevin Beattie was time after time voted Town’s best-ever player and none of his team-mates who played with him disagreed.
He was voted PFA Young Player of the year in 1973/74, the only Town player ever to do so. It was the first year of the award.
The last six winners have been Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Dele Alli (twice) and Leroy Sane.
Previous winners include Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Glenn Hoddle. That’s the company of player ‘The Beat’ kept.
As I said, for many young people, trying to fathom out how good Beattie was is difficult, I appreciate that.
I never saw George Best play, but I keep getting told the man was a genius on the football pitch. I’ve only seen a few old clips of Best, admittedly all hugely impressive. So, I believe those who saw him, that he really was one of the very greatest strikers.
One way I would describe Beattie in the modern-day is like this.
Take Harry Maquire... And add 40%!
That’s how good Beattie was. And I don’t mean that as any disrespect to Maquire, far from it.
Among current players Maquire is as close to Beattie as I can think of – what a compliment that is.
My youngest son asked if Beattie was as good as Sergio Ramos?
Again no disrespect to Ramos, but I didn’t bother to reply.
On the pitch, I saw ‘The Beat’ ‘rise like a salmon’ about three feet above the Goodison Park crossbar to score in an FA Cup tie one year. He also scored a fluke goal from a free-kick on the half-way line. His reaction was priceless.
I was lucky enough to be brought up with the likes of Town stars Beattie, Burley, Hunter, Mariner, Muhren, Thijssen, Wark, Mills, Gates, Brazil, etc., etc.
My big fortune and no doubt many of yours.
I last saw ‘The Beat’ in the Radio Suffolk studios on Mark Murphy’s ‘Life’s A Pitch’ programme at the end of last season.
I was promoting the very excellent, if I say so myself and with little bias!, Kings of Anglia magazine (out in all good shops, just £3.99!!!)
Anyhow ‘Beat’ arrived with seconds to go to the start of the show and was in excellent form throughout, especially enjoying Allan Hunter’s big feature in KOA, with the classic line from Hunter... “He (Beattie) didn’t have a right foot. But he didn’t need one, his left was so good.”
That made ‘Beat’ laugh.
Beattie and I met on many occasions, one of the first when he came to the EADT offices in Lower Brook Street after his playing career was over.
Kieron Dyer was just starting on his ITFC adventure in the first team and was penning a column for the Green’Un.
The pair bumped into each other as both were coming in to talk to the sports team about different matters. Yes folks, before social media, that closeness used to exist between media and players – and it was far healthier than today’s suspicious relationships.
Anyhow, ‘The Beat’ put his arm around Kieron and offered words of praise. It was a lovely moment. One an England player and one set to become one.
Apart from anything else though, ‘The Beat’s’ passing is far more than Town fans losing a former Town ‘great’.
Kevin Beattie was you – Kevin Beattie was me.
He was all of us... fans, sponsors, players, management.
He typified community. He typified what it meant to love a football club.
Ipswich Town FC, from the time he arrived as a 15-year-old until his death last weekend was his world. He loved the Club and we all loved him.
Yes, he was far from perfect, but who is?
He leaves a huge hole.
But he leaves us with huge and happy memories of his time as THE greatest-ever Ipswich Town player.
In today’s money ravaged, self-indulgent, greedy footballing world, ‘The Beat’ played for the love of the game and his love of Ipswich Town, not his bank balance.
The tributes he received at Portman Road on Tuesday night were wonderful.
I’m just glad I was lucky enough to see him play.