The death of the former Ipswich and England defender Kevin Beattie from a heart attack at the age of 64 should remind us all that not all footballers are the preening, posing, multimillionaire Bentley owners we imagine them all to be. Beattie did not die a rich man, quite the opposite in fact. There are lessons for many of us.
Beattie spent many years as a full time carer to his wife who suffered from MS. Although he earned a decent living as a top flight footballer, his time in the game was spent long before the money-printing machine of the Premier League came along. Latterly, he needed the help of the PFA to assist him financially and his little part time job as a football summariser with local radio got him in trouble with the DWP who prosecuted him for benefit fraud when he continued to claim Income Support.
By failing to declare the £45 he received from local radio for Saturday games and £75 for midweek games, Beattie claimed £9000 over four years to which he was not entitled. I do not know the breakdown of this £9000 – which particular benefits, that is – but you might conclude Beattie got what was coming to him when he was prosecuted, given a nighttime curfew and told to pay £50 in prosecution costs. I am not quite sure how his prosecution was in the public interest when he was caring for his ailing wife. Just pay it back and let’s have done with it, perhaps? Sadly not.
Kevin Beattie was once courted by Liverpool legend Bill Shankly, who rated him very highly and later regretted the fact he failed to sign him. His manager at Ipswich, Bobby Robson, felt Beattie was one of the best centre backs ever to play the game. Yes, he really was that good, playing nine games for his country before injury cut short his career.
Not all footballing lives end in glory. RIP a great player.