He was not just a wonderful player but he was a true Blue through and through, and he will in my eyes remain the best player ever to don an Ipswich shirt. Now I know I may be about this place for many years to come but I think I can say with absolute confidence, that I will not see a better player wearing the Town colours in my lifetime, and it serves as a fitting testament to just how good Kevin Beattie was.
Sadly, injuries plagued his career throughout, and this explains why he only played nine games for England when if he had have managed to stay fit, it would surely have amounted to the hundreds.
He was a colossus of a person both on and off the pitch and it is fitting a statue in his honour will be paraded next to that if Sir Bobby Robson; which in itself is fitting, as it was this man who brought this wonderful footballer to Portman Road, when Liverpool failed to meet him at Lime Street station after he had impressed Bill Shankly on his first trip north. He was also being eyed by Celtic too at the time but being a staunchly Catholic club in those days, they were misinformed about his religious upbringing and abruptly ended their interest.
He was a clever kid was The Beat and passed his eleven plus, but his family was very poor and could not afford to send him to the school of their choosing and instead sent him to St Patrick’s Roman Catholic senior school. When Beattie was met at Euston Station by head Chief Scout Ron Gray and he’d been told by Robson that if he missed him he would lose his job! He arrived in Town earing his father’s shoes and the first thing the club did was to buy him some clothes.
Robson converted him from a striker to a centre back and this was a move that was the perfect fit for The Beat. Once he was actually earning a living he would send a lot of his money back to his family in Carlisle, but then discovered that his father was spending a lot of it on booze whilst his poor mother had to go without. He was from a big family and the acrimony that existed was largely born out of this and extreme poverty, and his fathers drinking habits.
Beattie was given his first-team debut aged 18 against mighty Manchester United in 1972 and he did not fail to impress. Town won the match 2-1 and immediately afterwards Beattie went running up to Sir Bobby Charlton for his autograph. He probably did not think at the time that it would be fans who would be clamouring after his in the future! Beattie featured 38 times for Ipswich in that league season, scoring an impressive 5 goals!
I had the pleasure of watching Kevin play on a number of occasions and the thing that impressed me most was his confidence in the air and his fearsome tackling. Yet, this does not do the player justice because he was so much more than that. He once scored a goal from beyond the halfway line I seem to recall and he had a ferocious shot in him too and was good with both feet. In many respects here was the complete player, and I feel privileged to have seen him.
Between 1972 and 1981 Beattie played just 228 games for the Blues when it should have been a similar number to Mick Mills who played in almost 600! Knees were his Achilles heel and latterly back problems, but given the fact that he put his heart and soul into every game, his body would inevitably pay the price.
The Statue that is to be dedicated to his memory by Sean Hedges-Quinn is a fitting tribute to this wonderful man, who was loved both on and off the field. He was perhaps the real reason that I fell in love with Ipswich Town football club so passionately. I had the pleasure of speaking to him once or twice on phone-in’s on Radio Suffolk with his good friend Mark Murphy, and he would always describe me as “Our friend from Holland.”
There will only ever be one Kevin Beattie and his memory won’t diminish with time.
F.W. – editor of Vital Ipswich