Ipswich Town legend Kevin Beattie admits ‘I’m a lucky guy’ as he turns 60 today

Kevin Beattie

Kevin Beattie - Credit: Archant

Kevin Beattie, the man widely regarded as Ipswich Town’s greatest-ever player, celebrates his 60th birthday today. STUART WATSON went to speak to the Blues legend about his great memories, lack of regrets and thoughts on the modern game

The 60 candles on Kevin Beattie’s birthday cake today should really have numbered fewer than the England caps to his name.

A buccaneering centre-back who would gallop beyond the midfield to get into the box. A powerful shot that most strikers could only envy. An ability to hang in the air as if time itself had stopped.

The late, great Sir Bobby Robson famously said that ‘Beat’, his diamond, was the best English-born player he’d ever seen. Quite a statement when you stop and think about it.

Year after year he is voted Ipswich Town’s greatest ever player, yet it’s names such as Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton which roll off the tongue when England greats are discussed. And that’s because Beattie only ever played nine times for his country.

“I must have been called up at least 120 times, but almost every time I had to pull out the squad because of my knee,” he recalls.

Ah, that right knee.

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Modern day physiotherapy and science would have sorted it out via surgery and the rest afforded by squad rotation.

Back in the 70s, with just one substitute available, it was pumped with cortisone injections as players forced themselves through the pain barrier for the love of the game and the adoration of the fans they mixed with.

It was that knee which forced him to watch on from the stands for both legs of Town’s UEFA Cup final triumph against AZ 67 Alkmaar in 1981.

That knee which forced him to retire from top-flight football at the age of 27. That knee which now prevents him from walking much more than half a mile.

It’s just one of the reasons that Beattie could have been left resentful when looking at the current day game. Inflated wages being another.

“Nowadays people like John Terry are on something like £175,000-a-week,” says Beattie. “I used to get paid £25 a week, but to be honest I’d have played for free.”

Would any of today’s players do the same?

“None, no way,” he replies. “But good luck to them. The game is different now, everyone has agents and it’s right that the best players get their rewards.

“What gets me is when you see very ordinary players, not even top-flight players, who are getting paid silly money. Someone like Joey Barton is probably on £100,000-a-week at QPR in the Championship. That’s crackers.

“Who’s that Welsh bloke with the long hair? Robbie Savage. I remember reading that he was buying his missus a pink Rolls Royce and he wasn’t even that good a footballer.

“You can’t blame the players though. If the clubs are willing to pay it then good luck to them.

“My contract negotiations used to consist of going into the boss’s office at the end of the season and him saying ‘how do you think you did son?’ I’d say ‘not too bad’ and he’d offer me an extra £10 a week. I’d sign a new three-year deal every time.

“All I cared about was going out there and entertaining the fans.”

Yet all of the above is said with a smile, not bitterness. Beattie, who has been a full-time carer for his wife Maggie ever since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 15 years ago, chooses to focus on what he did achieve, and what he has got, rather than what he didn’t or doesn’t.

He was the first-ever recipient of the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 1973/74 and an FA Cup winner in 1978 as Arsenal were handed a 1-0 thrashing at Wembley.

Now he’s surrounded by his three daughters, seven grandchildren and newly-born great grandchild.

“I’m a lucky guy, I know that,” says Beattie. “My career may have been shorter than I’d have liked, but it was a great career and I loved every minute of it.

“I still vividly remember my debut against Manchester United, walking out in front of a sea of blue for the FA Cup final and pulling on that England shirt.

“You can’t take away those memories.

“I still get stopped all the time to sign autographs. I love it because without those fans I’d be a nobody.”