A brilliant career cut short

KEVIN Beattie's persistent injury problems cut short his professional career as he was reaching his prime.

Nick Garnham

KEVIN Beattie's persistent injury problems cut short his professional career as he was reaching his prime.

He missed the UEFA Cup final in 1981 after breaking his arm in the FA Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester City less than a month before.

He left Ipswich in July 1982 and joined Colchester United, where former Ipswich Town team-mate Allan Hunter was manager, but started only three games and made one appearance from the bench before moving to Middlesbrough in November of that year.

Malcolm Allison, the flamboyant former Crystal Palace and Manchester City boss, was the manager, but injury restricted Beattie to a further four appearances, including one as a substitute, before he quit playing professionally.

He had a short spell with non-league Barnet before playing for a variety of local non-league clubs, and also had spells in Norway and Sweden.

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Beattie, who won only nine full England caps, has never been too far away from making headlines since calling time on his professional career.

His near brushes with death - through pancreatitis and an attempted suicide - have been well documented in the past, as have his financial problems, which saw bailiffs take his FA Cup winner's medal to pay a debt he owed, although a friend subsequently bought it back for him.

He has had his fair share of bad luck and misfortune, admittedly some of it self-inflicted, so what is his biggest regret?

“That has to be finishing my career when I did. I am not being big-headed, but I don't think the fans saw the best of me. If they had the medical knowledge that they have now I could have played until I was 40.”

Despite his ups and down he is still smiling - and still earning recognition for an unfulfilled career more than 25 years after it ended.

The man who has been voted Ipswich Town's all-time greatest player in various polls, including by readers of both the East Anglian Daily Times and Evening Star, has had another book published about his career - The Kevin Beattie Story by Rob Finch, subtitled The Greatest Footballer England Never Had - as well as two more honours recently bestowed upon him.

A petition to have a UEFA Cup winner's medal struck for him has proved successful as well as Beattie being inducted into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame.

He said: “It is going to be a great honour to get a medal. The man I have got to thank is Rob Finch for setting up the petition, although I didn't expect anything to come of it.

“The year we won the UEFA Cup we beat St Etienne - we actually murdered them - and their team included Michel Platini, who in his role as president of UEFA has now agreed to strike another medal for me.”

Ipswich legends Ray Crawford, Mick Mills, Ted Phillips and John Wark were the first inductees into the club's Hall of Fame last year, and last month Beattie, John Elsworthy, the late Jimmy Leadbetter and Frans Thijssen joined them.

Beattie said: “It is a great, great honour. I am over the moon. For your own club, the club you love, to select you is something special.

“Next year I will be helping to pick the next four. I have already got four in mind, but it is not just up to me!”

He will have been married to Maggie for 35 years in June and has three daughters - Emma, 33, Sarah, 30, and Louise, 28 - and six grandchildren - Hannah, 16, Josh and Keiron, both 11, Rhys, six, Rowan, five and Grace, who is two-and-a-half.

Maggie has suffered from multiple sclerosis for 12 years and been in a wheelchair for the past eight years, and Beattie, who is now her full-time carer, has helped to raise funds for MS as well as other charities.

He still regularly attends matches at Portman Road, although he has been laid low recently by a bad back - another legacy of his playing days.

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