THE FIRST goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FA Cup Final – and the first to captain his team in the historic end of season finale – played between the sticks for both Newcastle United and Brighton.
Admittedly Dave Beasant is better known for his years playing for Wimbledon, during which time he laid down those FA Cup milestones in the 1988 final against Liverpool.
Nicknamed Lurch after the butler in The Addams family, Beasant’s heroics to keep out John Aldridge’s spot kick and preserve the 1-0 lead given to the humble south west London club by Lawrie Sanchez, led to the giant goalkeeper lifting the cup.
It also turned out to be the last ever game he played for Wimbledon. A month after that Wembley triumph, Newcastle paid £750,000 for his services – a transfer fee record for a goalkeeper at that time.
Not a bad return on Wimbledon’s £1,000 investment ten years earlier after he had impressed Dario Gradi playing for Edgware Town against the Dons in a pre-season friendly.
Beasant made his league debut against Blackpool in January 1979, and, remarkably, between August 1981 and the end of that 1987-88 season, made 304 consecutive league appearances for the Dons as they rose through the leagues.
When Newcastle sold Paul Gascoigne to Spurs for £2.2 million, they decided to splash £750,000 of it on the big Wimbledon goalkeeper.
Sadly, it was not money well spent. Beasant’s spell on Tyneside lasted just five months and certainly didn’t match the fairytale ending at Wimbledon.
Newcastle struggled at the foot of the table in 1988-89, and were relegated, but before the trapdoor opened Beasant had already departed after just 20 appearances.
He moved back to London in January 1989 to join Chelsea, where he played 193 times, initially under Ian Porterfield, until falling out of favour in 1992.
It was towards the end of 1989 that Beasant won two England caps, playing against Italy and Yugoslavia, and an injury to David Seaman saw Beasant selected for Bobby Robson’s 1990 England World Cup squad, although he didn’t play.
When Glenn Hoddle took over at Stamford Bridge, Beasant was relegated to number three ‘keeper behind Dmitri Kharine and Kevin Hitchcock, so he went out on loan for brief spells at Grimsby Town and Wolves before securing a £300,000 move to Southampton in 1993 to succeed Tim Flowers as their no.1.
He played 105 times for Saints but several managerial changes saw his fortunes fluctuate and, in 1997, he once again found himself third choice – this time behind Maik Taylor and Paul Jones – and he was on the move again.
By this time he was 38, but retirement was still not on his agenda. After joining on loan initially, Beasant moved permanently to Nottingham Forest in November 1997 and played139 games in four years.
It was back to the south coast again in 2001, when Portsmouth needed a goalie following the death in a road accident of their regular ‘keeper, Aaron Flahavan. Beasant played 27 times for Pompey.
Emergency loan spells then followed successively at Tottenham, Bradford City and Wigan Athletic, although he didn’t play any first team games for any of them.
It was from Wigan, just a few weeks before his 44th birthday in 2003, that he once again headed south, this time to join Brighton’s brave but ultimately unsuccessful attempt under Steve Coppell to stave off relegation from Division One.
With Michel Kuipers out of the side with a thigh injury and loan replacement, Ben Roberts, suffering from ‘flu, Beasant was drafted in.
In the Bradford City v Brighton programme in February 2003, Colin Benson wrote almost poetically about the legendary goalkeeper.
“The unmistakeable figure of Dave Beasant stood tall under the Brighton crossbar at the Bescot Stadium a fortnight ago marking his debut for his 11th club at 43 years of age by brilliantly saving from Leitao’s shot on the rebound after beating out an effort from Corica,” he wrote. “Unfortunately he could not crown the day with a match winning clean sheet for Walsall pinched a 1-0 victory but it amply demonstrated that after 20 years between the posts he has lost none of his technique or resilience.”
He played 16 games through to the end of the season and although ultimately the bid to stay up was not successful, no blame could be laid at Beasant’s door for lack of effort.
Never was it more evident than in the final game of the season away to Grimsby. With the score 2-2 and all hope virtually extinct, Beasant was still giving his all when other players’ heads had dropped.
I chatted briefly to Beasant at the club’s end of season dinner and remarked how I had been impressed by his never-say-die attitude right to the very end of that game, even though it was a lost cause.
Obviously the consummate professional, he said to me that however unlikely a win would be, you had to continue to play in the hope things might change round.
What a pro and exactly the sort of attitude that meant Beasant endeared himself to the Albion faithful. In a prophetic assessment after the Grimsby game, he told the Argus:
“You feel for those fans because they have been superb. They are gearing themselves for next season already and hopefully the players can set the same target as the fans and, obviously, that is to bounce straight back.”
Beasant hung up his gloves but Albion, of course, went on and did just as he thought they might on that glorious day at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
After retiring from playing, Beasant was part of Chris Coleman’s coaching staff at Fulham and stayed on when his old Wimbledon teammate Lawrie Sanchez took over (he had already worked with Sanchez in his previous role as Northern Ireland manager). But when Sanchez was fired, Beasant went too.
He subsequently worked for his son, Sam, at Stevenage, and at the age of 55 was famously registered as part of the squad for the 2015 play-off final, even though he didn’t play.
For the past two years, Beasant has been goalkeeping coach at Reading.