Ex Red Volume 2 – Peter Beardsley

Beardsley

Beardsley

This week’s featured Ex Red is a player who will always be extremely popular here in Vancouver, Peter Beardsley. I really love Peter Beardsley and he’s definitely one of my top five favourite players of all time. He’s a top bloke too, I know this because I’ve met him, but more on that later.

Peter Beardsley was born in January 1961, in Newcastle. He started his football career with Carlisle United in 1979 after being spotted playing for Wallsend Boys’ Club and after making over 100 appearances he decided to accept an offer to move to Canada and join the Vancouver Whitecaps who bought him for £275,000 in 1981.

He made enough of an impact in Vancouver for word to get back to Man United who paid £250,000 for him in 1982. Beardsley made just one appearance for them, in the League Cup, before rejoining the Whitecaps on a free transfer.

In his autobiography there is an entire chapter dedicated to his time spent in Vancouver. He speaks very fondly of his time with the Whitecaps and says he was tempted on a number of occasions to move there on a permanent basis, but there was no way he could eventually resist signing for his hometown club, Newcastle United. He had some memorable performances for the Whitecaps and scored some great goals and is fondly remembered by all those who saw him play at the time.

In 1983 he joined his boyhood club Newcastle United for £150,000. He had four years with the Magpies that included memorable partnerships with another Ex Red, Kevin Keegan, and also Chris Waddle. Not only did he score great goals but he also set up some spectacular ones too. Peter helped Newcastle gain promotion to Division One in 1983/84 which was Kevin Keegans final season as a player. It was at this point that he began to attract a lot of wide attention for his incredible ability as he scored twenty goals in that promotion season.

In the 1985/86 season Peter famously ended a game against West Ham as the stand in goalkeeper. The game ended in an 8-1 defeat for Newcastle with Peter conceding three goals. I recall watching Newcastle play on Match of the Day sometime around 1986 and my dad speaking at length about how much he wanted Liverpool to sign Peter.

His stock rose even higher after impressing during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He partnered Gary Lineker and helped him to win the golden boot for the tournament. Peter also managed to get on the scoresheet himself in the second round victory over Paraguay. In a recent interview Gary Lineker was asked who his favourite striking partner of all time was and he chose Peter.

During the summer of 1987 Kenny Dalglish smashed the British transfer record and brought him to Liverpool for £1.9 million. The season before had ended badly for us as Everton had won the league title by nine points and Ian Rush had departed for Juventus. Kenny had already brought in John Aldridge from Oxford United to replace Rushie and in the summer of 1987 he added our man Peter and John Barnes from Watford. They were followed soon after by Ray Houghton also from Oxford United who had played a blinder for them at Anfield at the start of the season.

This side is regarded by a lot of people, including myself, as the most skilful Liverpool side ever. We went twenty nine games unbeaten at the start of the season equalling the record set previously by Leeds United. Annoyingly the chance to achieve the record was denied to us at Goodison Park against Everton with a Wayne Clark goal.

It wasn’t just the amount of wins we put in that season it was the way in which we went about it. The standard of skill on show that season was truly breathtaking with memorable victories against QPR, Everton and most famously the 5 – 0 versus Nottingham Forest which was later voted as the ‘performance of the century’. At that time Barnes was probably the best player in the world and to be honest although he didn’t get as many headlines Beardsley wasn’t too far behind him. It took Peter a few games to score his first goal, which came in an away victory at Coventry City. From that moment on he was flying and was involved in some really memorable moments that season. Possibly his finest goal came in the televised Merseyside derby when he smashed in a blinder off the crossbar. In the FA Cup Final defeat to Wimbledon Peter scored a fine goal, only to have it disallowed because the referee had already blown for a free kick to Liverpool in the build up and didn’t play the advantage.

He had four fantastic seasons at Anfield during which he won two league titles, an FA Cup and three Charity Shields. He also gained the hearts of all Liverpool supporters and the people of Merseyside when he helped to look after the families after the Hillsborough disaster. He was so upset by the disaster that he was only able to attend one funeral but his efforts are still very much appreciated and won’t be forgotten.

There was rumours that Peter didn’t get along with Kenny Dalglish because he was often the victim of a rotation system but this was very much untrue. In fact they were next door neighbours for six years on Merseyside and Kenny helped Peter with the sale of his house when he left the area.

In his final season at Anfield, 1990/91 Peter was in and out of the side but scored eleven goals, including a memorable hat-trick against Man United in September 1990.

Unfortunately Peter’s time at Liverpool came to an abrupt end soon after Kenny Dalglish resigned as manager in February 1991. Peter was criminally fazed out of the team, often in favour of Ronny Rosenthal, by Kenny’s replacement, Graeme Souness. My dislike of Souey’s management reign could have its own separate article and one of the worst things he ever did was to sell Peter to Everton for one million pounds in 1991, to help raise funds to buy Dean Saunders. This decision still leaves me scratching my head all  hese years later as Saunders was never ever in the same league as Peter. The stupidity of that decision was made clear at the time by the fact that Liverpool supporters were not angry with Peter for moving across Stanley Park but instead vented their anger and frustrations towards Souness and the Liverpool board. In my opinion it is not a coincidence that the sale of Peter Beardsley coincided with glory years coming to an end and us not winning a league title since 1990. Peter was just one of many great players sold far too soon during that period.

I was fortunate enough to meet Peter in early 1992 while he was an Everton player. My uncle Graham used to be a registered FA referee and officiated non league games for many years. One time he was chosen to be the fourth official at a cup game between Everton and Watford at Goodison Park and he invited me and my dad to be his guests for the evening. We got to sit in the referees changing room before and after the game and then sit in the director’s box during the game. The referees changing room was in the same corridor as the two teams and I was able to meet and get the autographs of lots of players including all the Everton team, and from Watford the great Luther Blissett and a young David James just months before he signed for Liverpool. My favourite memory of that night was meeting Peter Beardsley and out of all the players I met that evening he was the nicest. He stopped and chatted with me for a good five minutes even though he was busy. I remember him rubbing my hair and making jokes and just being absolutely brilliant with me before signing my match programme which coincidentally had a picture of him on the cover. I was already a big fan of him already but after that moment he became a real hero to me and I always followed his career wherever he played.

During his two seasons at Everton Peter joined David Johnson as one of only two players to score for both sides in Merseyside derbies. I remember being present in the ground when he scored the winner for Everton in 1992.

In July 1993 he returned to Newcastle (again along with Kevin Keegan, this time as manager) who had just gained promotion to the top division. In his first season at Newcastle, the 32 year old Peter rolled back the years with some vintage performances. He scored 25 goals and helped them to third in the Premier League. He had four glorious years back at Newcastle and almost captained them to the Premiership title in 1996. He was the team captain for that famous 4-3 game at Anfield that was later called ‘The Game of the Decade’.

Peter left St James’s Park in 1997 and then spent the final two years of his career drifting to various teams including Bolton, Fulham, Man City and Hartlepool Utd where he won his final medal as a player in 1999 when they won the second division (now division one) title. His loan spell at Man City makes him the answer to a great trivia question as the only player to play for both top clubs in Liverpool and Manchester. He ended his career at the age of 38 with two games in Australia for the Melbourne Knights.

After retirement he returned to Newcastle where he worked as part of the coaching staff until 2006. In March 2009 he returned to the club as an academy coach before becoming the reserve team manager in July 2010. When Chris Hughton was sacked as first team manager in December 2010, Peter was put in charge as caretaker manager for a few days. His first game was amazingly almost at home against Liverpool.

Peter Beardsley played 175 games for Liverpool and scored 59 goals. Even though he was only with us for a short time he is regarded as an Anfield legend and one of the most talented players ever to play for the club. He was a key player in the great side of the late 1980’s and formed amazing partnerships with John Aldridge, John Barnes and Ian Rush. He was voted in at number 19 in the series ‘100 Players Who Shook the Kop’. Peter Beardsley we salute you!