John Beresford reveals his pride in his son Beau's progress at Newcastle United as he reminisces ahead of a huge anniversary for the club
This weekend marks a significant anniversary in the long and proud history of Newcastle United – and its significance isn’t lost on John Beresford.
On Saturday, it’ll be 30 years, to the day, since Kevin Keegan returned to the club as manager.
Newcastle, then as now, were fighting relegation. The club was 23rd in the old Second Division, and seemingly heading for English football’s second tier.
United stayed up after a dramatic final two games – and the rest, of course, is history.
Beresford, at the time, was at Portsmouth, and the defender would join the club that summer along with the likes of Rob Lee, Barry Venison and Paul Bracewell.
Beresford knew he was joining a big club, but he had no idea what the following few years would have in store for him and his new team-mates.
Keegan took the club back to the summit of the domestic game – and into Europe.
“You knew you were joining a big club,” said Beresford, who will be back on Tyneside for a charity dinner at the Grand Hotel, Gosforth, with Lee, Keith Gillespie and Steve Howey on April 8.
“There was a lot of euphoria, but to say it went well for myself was an understatement. We got promoted first season, and the team just got better and better.
“The atmosphere, not just in the ground, I just thought Newcastle, as a place, changed. It changed the actual city. It was a blur, to be honest. There was so much going off.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, everybody goes ‘to win the league (would’ve been amazing)’, but if you’d said to me we’d win the league, but playing a defensive game, and not being able to express yourself like we did ... I wouldn’t have changed it.”
Beresford had failed a medical at Liverpool before his move to Newcastle.
“When I failed a medical, you think ‘nobody’s going to touch me’,” said Beresford. “Then when Kevin came in and said ‘don’t worry about it’. He just went ‘this is a blessing in disguise’.
“When he’s saying those things, you think ‘yeah, yeah – he’s just saying this’. But we got promoted and went to Anfield and won 2-0. I remember knocking on the boot room door, and (Graeme) Souness was in there with his coaches.
“He just went ‘well done, son – it’s worked out for you’. I just needed that. It turned out to be the best thing.”
Keegan’s buccaneering team, dubbed “The Entertainers”, is still talked about to this day.
“Me and Rob Lee talk about it sometimes,” said Beresford. “It hurt to think we were so close (to winning a trophy). But Rob will say the same. He’ll say ‘you know what? What a time we had’.
“We have these dinners, and we get back together and start reminiscing, and somebody brings something up, and then it sparks a memory. It can be a game or a training session or a night on the town. You just start smiling to yourself. It was phenomenal.”
Beresford works in the lounges at St James’s Park on matchdays, and he’s sensed the buzz in the stadium – and the in the city – following a £305million takeover late last year.
And he feels that the 18th-placed club is again about to take off, despite its perilous Premier League position.
“I think when the club was bought, and I turned up for the Tottenham game, the buzz around the place took me back,” said Beresford.
“The problem you’ve got with the team at the moment, because they’re bottom of the league and struggling for results, when you play at St James’s Park, everybody will say ‘it’s the fans that get the team going’, but it’s the other way round.
“It’s where Keegan understood it. He knew if you put the right team out there, and you get a chance in the first minute to get a cross in or get a shot in, all of a sudden the crowd are with you, and you’ve got to go with it
“The problem this team has because of where they are, it goes the other way. They don’t know how to use the crowd yet. If they score, they get a bit nervous. When you get the right players, who know how to work and play in front of Newcastle fans, you’ll have a different animal.”
Keegan’s teams went for the jugular, and Newcastle, under Eddie Howe, are having to learn what to do with a lead.
“It was an unwritten rule of ‘you keep going’,” said Beresford. “The gaffer would be (saying) ‘keep the tempo up’. Training sessions were all at full pelt.
“You didn’t go clattering in, but if you, in training, started to slack off, he’d go mad. He’d cut the grass so short, so the ball zipped around even quicker. Once you were on top, you don’t let go.
“You had the right players too. They were all hungry. As the new signings came, they all bought into it. The foreign lads, sometimes it took them by surprise, how intense we played. They’d sometimes want to slow it down.
“Like David (Ginola), he was never going to run back, but he knew once he got it, he had to do something with it. The only telling off I’d give him would be if he didn’t go anything with it.”
Beresford and his team-mates wrote themselves into Geordie folklore for their exploits during the Keegan years.
And there was a familiar name on the Newcastle teamsheet for the club’s recent FA Youth Cup win over Colchester United at St James’s Park.
Beresford’s 17-year-old son Beau, also an attack-minded left-back, is making his way in the game, and he and his team-mates, coached by former United defender Peter Ramage, will take on Blackpool in the next round.
“I went to watch him in the Youth Cup,” said Beresford. “I’m not going to lie, to see him walk out at St James’s Park, it kind of hit me. I was as proud as to see him in black and white kit.
“It’s a nice little thing that he plays in the same position. It was a great result as well. Hopefully, they can get another good result, and it’ll be interesting to see how far they can go with it. I’m delighted with the way it’s going for him.
“He’s been brought up in Durham, he’s a Newcastle fan. With me working at the club, I’d be bringing him to games. You get forced into it!
“He just play normal Sunday football, and he didn’t join the Academy until he was 13. So he was quite raw, still, and I’m quite glad. He’s still very much rough round the edges. To him, it’s still quite new and exciting. He’s only been in the professional game three or four years.
“Rammy’s there, and that’s a good thing as well. When you get a good coach, someone he can get on with, (it helps). He’s got a big couple of years.”
John Beresford, Rob Lee, Keith Gillespie and Steve Howey, four of Kevin Keegan’s “Entertainers” team, are appearing at a charity dinner at the Grand Hotel, Gosforth on Friday, April 8. The event, dedicated to the memory of Brian Paddison, is raising money for the Tiny Lives Trust, a charity that provides help and support for premature babies and their families, and Wallsend Boys Club. Tickets for dinner are priced at £45, and can be bought from Les Hancock 07779 841 293 and Terry Sweeney 07968 126 622.