Imagine you're a gifted footballer about to hit your peak years with your native club. The best team in the country come calling and break the bank to sign you as a replacement for their greatest ever player.
More significantly, the man that signed the cheque is none other than Liverpool's greatest ever player. The scenario gives you an idea of the esteem that acquisition is held in.
Meet Peter Beardsley, a product of the academy known as the Wallsend Boys Club, and the man signed for £1.9 million to take over a colossal mantle.
King Kenny chose Beardsley as the man to take over his creative attacker’s role, and in doing so broke the British transfer record to sign the Geordie from Newcastle. Expectations were high and the famed Number 7 shirt now held by ‘El Pistolero’ Luis Suarez, had now passed from Keegan, Dalglish to Beardsley.
Beardsley had not taken the scenic route to Anfield, having played for Carlisle United, Vancouver Whitecaps, and witnessed rejection by Big Ron and Manchester United. Atkinson signed Beardsley for £250.000 before sending him back to Canada less than a year later, with only a paltry league cup appearance against Bournemouth under his belt.
Ironically Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign Beardsley for United in 1987 and tabled a £2 million bid, but Willie McFaul the Newcastle gaffer said he would not sell to Fergie for £3 million. Thus Beardsley became the fulcrum of Liverpool's new look strike force.
Beardsley had impressed domestically and internationally. England's stuttering 1986 World Cup fortunes had kicked into gear after the late Sir Bobby Robson paired Beardsley with Lineker in the final group game against Poland – a 3-0 win. The Geordie retained his place and scored in the 3-0 win over Paraguay in the last sixteen. Beardsley (1) and Lineker (6) scored all of England's goals at Mexico.
LFCHISTORY.NET highlights Beardo’s sentiments at joining Liverpool: “I'd probably decided to sign for Liverpool even before I met Kenny Dalglish. Newcastle had made it clear they wanted me to go and no other club had come in with a firm offer.
“Kenny Dalglish wanted to sign good players and build a great team. A few weeks earlier Liverpool had bought John Barnes from Watford and I fancied the idea to play alongside him.
“They had also signed John Aldridge from Oxford and I knew he was a reliable goalscorer. They received a lot of money for Ian Rush but were prepared to spend it to achieve success. The talks went so smoothly that we agreed terms within an hour."
Beardo slotted in naturally at Anfield and formed a new killer triumvirate with Aldridge and Barnes. He finished his first season with 18 goals, second to Aldridge.
Nicknamed Ceefax for his opulent football knowledge, Beardsley was one of the best English forwards of that era and a key member of the great 80s team. The Beardsley shimmy had arrived, and Kenny Dalglish's men served breathtaking football on a platter. Beardo, Aldo, Barnes and Houghton galloped forward at every given opportunity, achieving devastating results.
By the end of the season Liverpool had walked away with the title, losing the FA Cup final to Wimbledon. Beardsley netted in the final but referee Brian Hill had blown the whistle moments earlier and the goal was ruled out.
Lawrie Sanchez's deft header and Dave Beasant's reflexes from Aldridge’s penalty resulted in Bobby Gould's Plough Lane boys causing one of the greatest giant killings in F.A Cup final history.
Gary Lineker, England's second-most prolific goal scorer once described Beardsley as ‘the best partner I could ever have’ In a ten year England career between 1986 and 1996 Beardo earned 59 caps, scoring nine times. The total would have been more but Graham Taylor largely ignored the mercurial front man. Taylor's tactics preferred the employment of target men such as Alan Smith.
Beardo played at Hillsborough where the game that witnessed Britain's worst football tragedy was whistled to a stop by Ray Lewis shortly after he hit the Forest crossbar. After John Aldridge was sold, Beardsley was paired with the most prolific hit man in Liverpool's history and enjoyed a partnership with Ian Rush.
By 1991 Dalglish had been replaced by Graeme Souness and with the arrival of Welshman Dean Saunders and the possible signing of Mo Johnston, Beardsley crossed Stanley Park to join Everton. It was a highly premature decision that showed a clear lack of football judgement.
There were no repercussions. The fans blamed the board. At Everton and then at Kevin Keegan's Newcastle, Beardsley produced some of the best football of his career.
Beardo played 175 games for Liverpool, scoring 59 goals. His balance, vision, dribbling, trickery and eye for a killer pass made him the ideal foil for striking greats such as Lineker, Aldridge, Rush and Cole.
Beardsley's finest personal moment in A Red shirt came in 1990 when he scored a hat trick against arch rivals Manchester United - a feat that stood until Dirk Kuyt repeated it in 2011. The 4-0 hammering riled the Red Devils so much that the late Les Sealey denied Beardsley the match ball by booting it into the crowd after the final whistle.
He also scored one and assisted two in the 5-0 demolition of Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1988. It is a game that is symptomatic of Liverpool's style of play during the 70's and 80's.
The Northumberland man was voted 19th in the 2006 poll of 100 players who shook the Kop.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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