Kevin Beattie: European nights under the lights, and belting out ‘Beattie is back’!

Nice hats, lads! Allan Hunter and Kevin Beattie having a a whale of a time after the 1978 FA Cup fin

Nice hats, lads! Allan Hunter and Kevin Beattie having a a whale of a time after the 1978 FA Cup final win at Wembley, with coach Cyril Lea. - Credit: Archant

Mike Bacon remembers Kevin Beattie, from European nights at Portman Road, to the cricket pitches of Ipswich!

‘That white shirt is pristine pal. You iron it yourself?”

Kevin Beattie laughs out loud and pats me on the back.

It’s summer, some time back in the mid-90s, and ‘The Beat’ was turning out for a game of cricket at Bourne Vale, with members of the EADT sports department. He was the ‘ringer’ in our team in a game we hoped to win.

I always enjoyed Kevin Beattie’s company, even though I was never as close to him as my former sports room colleagues, Mel Henderson, Elvin King, Dave Allard and Neal Manning.

They were lucky enough to witness his career on the pitch from the press box and knew his brilliance as a footballer, my time with ‘The Beat’ was spent more after his career was finished.

And I genuinely loved the bloke’s company.

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In the beginning, I often found it difficult to get my head round the fact this down-to-earth fella was Ipswich Town’s greatest-ever player and one I had admired so much. He was easy going and a delight to be in the company of.

He had reason to feel cheated by football, but he never showed it.

And yes millennials, cut out your ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ jibes, ‘The Beat’ was Town’s best-ever player... EVER!

In fact an injury-free Kevin Beattie would have had 100 England caps, probably ended up at a club like Manchester United, with all due respect to the Super Blues, and captained his country.

If, buts and maybes.

I was in my early teens and an avid Town fan when Beattie began to shine as a player.

European nights under the lights at Portman Road were always special and Bobby Robson’s teams were more than a match for some of the best in Europe. For a young Town fan like me, it was heaven, Barcelona, Cologne et al.

But sadly, Beattie was in and out of the side because of injury like a yo-yo. And how we missed him.

Whenever the team was announced and our colossus was back on the pitch, “Beattie is back”, would roar around Portman Road as North Stand, Churchmans and all in between would delight at seeing their talisman back fit and raring to go.

He was that special.

But his fitness never lasted.

Anyhow, back to that cricket match.

For some reason my pristinely ironed shirt caused ‘Beat’ quite some amusement this warm summer’s day.

Although he looked on horrified when he, ‘our ‘ringer’, was bowled first ball.

And who was up the other end, his batting partner, 22 yards away? Yep, me!

“At least I have a chance to get my shirt dirty, Beat!,” I laughed as he walked passed me back to the pavilion.

“You’re not wrong pal,” he winked.

“And you can come do my ironing any day.”

What a top man.

Rest in peace ‘Beat’... The best Town player I’ve been lucky to watch.

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