Peter Beardsley – One of the greatest to pull on the black and white shirt
In a new series of articles I’m going to be looking back at the greatest goalscorers to ever pull on the black and white shirt of Newcastle United, first up I’ll be looking back at the glorious career of one of English football’s most outstanding talents, Peter Beardsley.
In the history of Newcastle United the club has had an unfortunate habit of missing out on some of the region’s best young footballers.
In 1996 the club had to break the world transfer record to sign Gosforth born Alan Shearer, who made his name at Southampton and led Blackburn Rovers to a Premier League title before returning home. Michael Carrick, one of the greatest English midfielders in the modern game, enjoyed an extraordinary career at Manchester United but never wore the famous black and white shirt.
Peter Beardsley was another player that the club missed out on.
However, Newcastle weren’t alone in missing out on one of English football’s generational talents, with Gillingham, Burnley and Cambridge United all opting not to sign Beardsley after taking him on trial. Carlisle United were the first club to recognise his talents, making his debut for them in the 1979-80 season.
Playing in the third division, Beardsley would make 99 appearances and score 24 goals during two seasons. This form would start to attraction attention from higher up the football pyramid and would very briefly see Beardsley join Manchester United, though he would make only one appearance for the club in the League Cup.
Rather than continue playing in the lower reaches of English football, Beardsley chose to take an unusual career path and signed for Vancouver Whitecaps in the North American Soccer League. He would play for the Canadian side for three seasons, making 73 appearances and scoring 28 goals.
By this point, his talent was starting to attract attention from back home, from the club he had dreamed of playing for as a young boy and in September 1983 he signed for Newcastle United for a reported fee of £150,000.
After scoring his first goal for the club in an away win over Cardiff City, he would endear himself to the Geordie faithful even further, scoring a hat-trick at St James’ Park in a 5-0 win over Manchester City in his next game.
Part of a formidable front line which also included Kevin Keegan and Chris Waddle, he scored 20 goals in 38 appearances and set up countless others. Many of his goals were spectacular and the season would end with Newcastle winning promotion and returning to the top flight of English football.
For the next three seasons Beardsley would thrive. In 1984-85 he scored 17 goals in 44 appearances and he would better that tally the following season, bagging a further 19.
By this time Beardsley was a fully fledged England international and was a key part of Bobby Robson’s side that would reach the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup. The inventive Beardsley was the ideal foil for the prolific Gary Lineker and if it hadn’t been for the combination of brilliance and skullduggery of Diego Maradona, then who knows what they might have achieved.
Following the World Cup he endured a frustrating campaign. Newcastle were going nowhere and this was reflected in his own personal performances, with Beardsley enduring comfortably the worst season of his career, scoring just five goals in all competitions.
Despite his struggles, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish knew a player when he saw one, splashing out nearly £2 million to take him to Anfield. Playing alongside John Aldridge and John Barnes, he would finally enjoy the success he craved, scoring 18 goals and winning the First Division. The following season he would enjoy FA Cup success, before winning his second league winners medal the following season. He would also win three Charity Shields.
After four seasons at Anfield, encompassing 175 appearances and 61 goals, Beardsley would join their main rivals Everton. He scored 32 goals during his two seasons at the club, becoming one of only two players to score for both sides in the Merseyside derby.
Although he was now in his early thirties, his continued good form attracted the attention of Kevin Keegan who had just returned Newcastle United to the Premier League and was looking for a partner for the prolific Andy Cole.
As he had been throughout his career, Beardsley was the perfect foil for his new strike partner and arguably enjoyed the best season of his career, scoring 24 goals in 41 games as the club finished in third place. Cole would score a remarkable 41 goals in 45 games.
Despite his successful return, his second spell at the club would be defined by just how close he came to more glory. He was a key part of Keegan’s side that finished runners up in the Premier League in 1995-96, with Beardsley one of a number of players whose form nosedived in the second half of the season.
That dip in form would cost him a place in England’s Euro 96 squad, a decision that would devastate Beardsley.
This disappointment seeped into the following season with Keegan later admitting he made a mistake including Beardsley in his starting line in the 4-0 Charity Shield defeat to Manchester United.
During his second spell at St James Park he would score 58 goals in 162 games, with Peter Beardsley regarding this spell of his career as among his best.
After leaving in the summer of 1997, he would have short spells at Bolton, Fulham, Manchester City and Hartlepool before ending his playing days in Australia.
He would finish his career having made a remarkable 879 appearances, scoring 280 goals. At international level he would finish with 59 caps and 9 goals, having played in two World Cups for his country.
Although he would never win a major trophy with Newcastle United, he wrote himself into club folklore, scoring 117 goals across two spells.
From humble beginnings, he retired as one of the greatest English footballers of all time.
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