Peter Beardsley: The 60-year-old magician who's no longer mentioned at Newcastle United
One summer, early in my time in journalism, I was tasked with compiling a list of the greatest Newcastle United footballers of all time.
The feature ran over a number of weeks, and once the names had all been published, there was a vote on the greatest of them all.
You might have thought Jackie Milburn, or even Bob Moncur, would have topped the fans’ vote. Today, maybe Alan Shearer would top any all-time list of greats.
They were up there, of course, but the player voted as the greatest of all time was Peter Beardsley, by then a coach at the club he had served, memorably and magically, close to the beginning and near the end of what unquestionably was a glittering playing career.
At the time, the early 2000s, Beardsley’s exploits in the mid-1990s were still fresh in many memories.
Kevin Keegan’s decision to bring a 32-year-old Beardsley, his former team-mate, back to St James’s Park in 1993 was a stroke of genius.
Beardsley, of course, was a genius with the ball at his feet, and if he wasn’t scoring goals, he was setting them up for Andy Cole. The pair had a phenomenal season together following the club’s promotion to the Premiership.
Beardsley turned 60 today, and those magical memories may have faded a little in the collective consciousness.
Think of him now, and you may not just think of Beardsley the player. Beardsley left Newcastle, where he had been Under-23 coach, in March 2019 following a lengthy suspension over allegations of racism, which the former England international strenuously denied.
The Football Association subsequently charged Beardsley with three counts of using racist language, and those charges were proven in late 2019 and suspended from all football-related activity for 32 weeks. Beardsley told of his “surprise and disappointment" at the verdict.
Beardsley, for his exploits as a player, will always be a Newcastle legend, though his legacy at the club is in part tainted by the damaging allegations which brought an end to his coaching career at St James’s Park.
It’s hard to see him returning to the club in any capacity any time soon. The club’s official Twitter account no longer wishes Beardsley a happy birthday like it used to every year.
Beardsley’s playing career, however, really was something to celebrate.