Leon Wobschall: Loss of Kevin Beattie brings back fond memories of magical era

AS a kid, I can still remember it now.

LEGENDS (clockwise from top left): Kevin Beattie, Paul Madeley, Ray Wilkins and Jimmy Armfield. (Kevin BEattie image kindly supplied by East Anglian Daily Times/Archant).

Mum and dad would pop to the Asda or Fairway on Saturday and I would stay at home with granddad and wait impatiently for the prized treasure of a nice, healthy bundle of Panini Football 78 packs to arrive.

Red packs with a union jack motif, if memory serves me right, although I did not take long to look at them before ripping them open with a frenzy.

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Sunday’s sad and untimely passing of Ipswich Town’s best in Kevin Beattie reminded me of that album and fragments of my childhood too.

And so I took the album out again for old times’ sake and there he was, flanked by Allan Hunter and Les Tibbott, with Mick Mills and George Burley not far away.

On the next two pages after Ipswich were Leeds United. And attention quickly gravitated towards the great Paul Madeley, pictured with just a hint of a smile, but looking typically masterful and authoritative like a benevolent police sergeant.

The ‘Rolls-Royce’ was parked next to a young Frankie Gray (it said Frankie, not Frank), with a grinning Gordon McQueen to his right.

Towards the top left was the gaffer. Wearing an aquamarine training top with a red rugby shirt underneath, clearly ready for work. The incomparable Jimmy Armfield.

Ipswich Towns Kevin Beattie in 1977. Picture kindly supplied by East Anglian Daily Times/Archant.

For many of a certain age, the passing of Madeley, Armfield, Beattie in recent months and others too in 2018, such as Cyrille Regis and Ray Wilkins, is almost like another little part of your childhood being lost forever.

You had your favourite teams back then, of course. But there was reverence in the school yard for those in the shirts of others, too. And Butch Wilkins, Madeley and Beattie were the sort who commanded instant respect.

Hugely talented, but humble, working class lads too, with the anecdotes and stories which have followed their deaths being inspirational. And not just about their prowess on the football field.

Madeley famously once signed a new contract on what was virtually a blank piece of paper. Asked by his manager Armfield what he wanted in terms of contract length, his answer was straightforward: ‘Either way, I will leave that to you. I just want to play for Leeds United.’

LEGEND: Jimmy Armfield consoles Allan Clarke after the 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich

Beattie, from the tough Carlisle suburb of Botcherby, was refreshingly uncomplicated too.

Like Madeley, he already was in receipt of richness when it came to contract time. He was playing for ‘his’ club in Ipswich Town. No amount of money could clearly buy that.

On his approach to talks, Beattie stated in one interview: “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.”

Leeds United's Paul Madeley in action.

Beattie and Madeley were one-club men in their prime. They littered the scene back in the late 70s. There were also the likes of Pat Rice, Geoff Merrick, Mick Lyons, Ron Harris, Roy McFarland, Mike Doyle, Tommy Smith and countless others too.

Blokes who, like Beattie and Madeley, would have probably played for nothing.

Beattie’s top-flight career may have ended at 27 due to that problematic right knee, which continued to give him problems in later life. The nine England caps should have been a good deal more. But what memories still. Lionised in Suffolk and respected much further afield.

Imperious in the air, quick over the ground and iron hard in the tackle - and willing to share a pint and a fag with the punters too, while being generous with his time. They don’t make them like that anymore.

Another light from Football 78 has gone out.