Tears of a crowd for Beardsley

Football: Tears of a crowd for Beardsley; Newcastle 1 Celtic 3.

FROM factory floor sweeper to captain of England. Peter Beardsley MBE returned to his spiritual home last night and how his devoted followers loved it.

The stars came out for the Peter Pan of football as Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Chris Waddle, Steve Stone, Lee Clark, Darren Huckerby and Steve Watson to name just a handful all donned the famous black and white on Beardsley's special night.

But there were also stars in every seat occupied by a Newcastle fan. Tickets for the 38-year-old idol's benefit game had sold out in two days. Celtic also brought 5,000 for a leisurely work-out as more than 36,000 were united in once voice.

It meant a pounds 250,000 bonanza for the little man.

And when Beardsley finally emerged from the players' tunnel, to be greeted by so many of his close friends and former colleagues, supporters from both sides of the border joined forces to just about take the roof off St James's Park.

It was incredible really that Tyneside, having witnessed Champions' League games in recent seasons, could manage to equal the atmospheres of those very special nights for a friendly. But then, so far as Newcastle fanatics are concerned, Peter Beardsley is no ordinary mortal.


The proud father of two strolled onto the pitch hand in hand with his nine-year-old son Drew and five-year-old daughter Stacey.

And as a packed stadium resounded to instant chants of: "There's only one Peter Beardsley", the main man found it hard to choke back the tears.

Beardsley, the very epitome of the local hero, spent eight years with his hometown club.

It's now 15 years since the veteran forward formed such a potent strikeforce alongside Keegan - then the Newcastle captain - and Chris Waddle.

They terrorised defences in the old Second Division before promotion was finally won and Keegan was whisked away from St James's Park by helicopter.

Having arrived from Vancouver Whitecaps, Beardsley became an instant hit on the old St James's terraces.

He said: "I can still remember the thrill of pulling on a black and white shirt for the first time.

"It's a feeling that never leaves you and then, to get the chance of an action replay of those feelings when Kevin brought be back ten years later meant I had been doubly blessed. So yes, I feel lucky.

"I started out with a determination not to go back to that factory floor in Killingworth where people were so kind and considerate to a kid who spent every waking hour waiting to be given his footballing chance."

The football daft kid who went on to captain his beloved Newcastle and his country returned home last night. And how the Toon Army loved it.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Beardsley had played in a domestic Cup game. Hartlepool's recent signing played in front of a meagre crowd of 1,370 as the North-East strugglers crashed out of the Auto-Windscreen Trophy 3-0 at home to Lincoln Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"Kevin stopped playing when he was still at the top, but I just want to keep playing football for as long as I can," added Beardo. Just for the record, Newcastle began the night with the following group of United players past and present: Shaka Hislop, Warren Barton, Darren Peacock, Steve Howey, Stuart Pearce, Robbie Elliott, John Barnes, Gascoigne, Beardsley himself, Scott Sellars and Cole.

Gazza's re-appearance in a black and white shirt brought a typically cheeky grin - but the former Rangers ace drew some pretty heavy jeers of derision from green and white quarters.


But that was simply meat and drink to the Middlesbrough man. Just as Gazza, Beardsley and Cole were beginning to set one or two slick attacks in motion, Lubomir Moravcik cracked home a 30-yard drive to leave the Select XI bemused. After all, the game was only four minutes old when former Newcastle centre-back Darren Peacock put through his own net!

Dalglish and his son Paul both joined in the action on 69 minutes, and were given a generous reception by both Geordie and Celtic fans. But still there was no Keegan.

His dramatic entrance was put off until the Toon Army could hardly bare the anticipation any longer. Finally he appeared. Now that's what you call timing.

Mark Burchill made it 3-0 in the 87th minute but there was still time for an inevitable home penalty which Beardsley stuck away to the delight of his army of admirers.


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