Swashbuckling Ken Beamish was a good old fashioned centre forward who crowds appreciated for his never-say-die attitude in pursuit of goals.
He mostly played in the third tier but had three seasons at the next level up (one was Brighton’s disastrous 1972-73 season and he had two with Blackburn).
He twice won promotion from the old Third Division – with Brighton in 1972 and Blackburn in 1975 – and scored 198 goals in 642 league and cup games between 1965 and 1982.
Beamish started his career with Tranmere Rovers and joined Brighton on transfer deadline day on 9 March 1972; manager Pat Saward apparently setting off for the north west from Sussex at 5am to ensure he captured his man before the 5pm deadline that existed at the time.
When Beamish signed for £23,000 (plus the surplus-to-requirements Alan Duffy), Albion had just scored 13 goals in three games so supporters were baffled as to why he was needed.
After two substitute appearances, Beamish made his full debut in the oft-talked about televised game v Aston Villa and then got off the mark in the 3-1 Good Friday win over Torquay United (see picture).
He contributed six goals in 14 games, including last minute winners in two games in the same week, against Rotherham and Rochdale.
In an interview in Goal magazine after promotion was clinched, Brighton manager Pat Saward explained why he had signed him when the team was already riding high and looking a good bet for promotion.
Aiming a bit of a sideswipe at the incumbents Willie Irvine and Kit Napier, Saward said: “We had plenty of skilful players up front but none had the devil in him. We wanted more thrust. Beamish gave us it.”
Reporter David Wright wrote: “He added the final spark to an ever-improving Brighton side that, after promising a great deal for two-thirds of he season, finally showed their true force in the last two months of the season when they enjoyed a marvellous run of 12 games without defeat.”
Saward was delighted with his signing and said: “Ken shows great courage and has an insatiable appetite for scoring goals. He would die in the box for you. He goes in where angels fear to tread. The whole side never know when they’re beaten – something they proved over and over again – and Beamish epitomises this. He battles away from the first whistle to the last.”
In Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters’ Club’s official souvenir handbook, produced to celebrate the promotion, coach Ray Crawford, the former England international striker who was part of Saward’s backroom team, said: “I don’t like to single out players because football is a team game, but I must on this occasion. Ken Beamish added the final bite up front, and those vital goals that he scored helped us into Division II. What a player this boy is – he never gives up!”
Unfortunately for Beamish, the goals were harder to come by in the division above, particularly in a struggling side and with a new strike partner in the shape of experienced Barry Bridges. Beamish’s scoring ratio dropped to one in four during 1972-73 and back in the third tier the following season, it didn’t get much better.
He kept his place in the side after Brian Clough’s arrival in October 1973 but 12 goals in 45 games didn’t impress a manager used to better things and he found himself part of the former Derby manager’s huge clear-out of players – and he was none too happy at the manner of it.
A contributor to Jonathan Wilson’s biography about Clough, Nobody Ever Says Thank You, Beamish spoke about how most of the players failed to get any rapport going with the manager because he was seldom around. “I played most of the games but we never saw much of Clough,” he said. “We saw him on match-day and Friday.”
Clough didn’t help matters when he missed a game altogether so he could go to America to watch a Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight. That left him open to criticism but Clough was not remotely bothered. Instead he went on the front foot and openly criticised the players for lacking moral courage and declared: “There is a gale blowing through this club and the players concerned are about to feel the draught.”
That one of them was Beamish appeared harsh at the time and the manner of his departure clearly left a nasty taste in the mouth.
Beamish told Simon Levenson in his interview for Match of My Life (Know The Score Books Ltd): “I knew my time was up when I wasn’t included in the end of season tour to Torremolinos. We’re all grown men and there are ways of telling people that you’re not part of their future plans. He could have told me face to face, but instead I discovered I’d been transfer listed when my neighbour told me he’d heard it on the radio.”
Clough’s loss was Gordon Lee’s gain. Lee, who would go on to manage Everton, paid £26,000 to take Beamish to Blackburn Rovers – the start of an association which continues to this day.
After scoring 19 goals for Blackburn in 86 appearances between 1974 and 1976, including promotion in 1975, he then had two years at Port Vale – where he was the player of the year in 1977-78 – a year at Bury and a second spell at Tranmere. He ended his playing days at Swindon Town, where he originally went to become assistant manager to long-serving John Trollope – father of recently appointed Albion assistant manager, Paul.
When Trollope senior left Swindon, Beamish ended up taking over as boss for 15 months, from March 1983 to June 1984, but 1983-84 proved to be a nightmare season in Swindon’s history with them finishing 17th in the old Fourth Division, the lowest finishing position in their history.
Beamish subsequently became commercial manager at Blackburn from 1986 until his retirement in 2012. He is now vice chairman of the Blackburn Rovers Former Players Association.
- Pictures from my scrapbook show a great action shot of Beamish scoring against Torquay, as featured in a Brighton & Hove Gazette end of season publication, and a portrait of him in Goal magazine. And dig the hairstyle, pear drop collar shirt and tank top in this Goal picture of him with his son.