Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ series. In this edition, we take a look at Newcastle United’s Peter Beardsley. Beardsley played for Newcastle United from 1983 until 1987 before returning to the club for a second spell from 1993 to 1997.
Returning Players – Peter Beardsley
First Spell at Newcastle United
A lifelong Newcastle United fan, Beardsley was a member of the academy side as a youngster and played in the same team as current Newcastle United manager, Steve Bruce. Both were released by the Magpies, a decision that they would regret in years to come.
Beardsley made his breakthrough with Carlisle United and would later have spells with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Manchester United before joining Newcastle for a fee of £150,000. It proved a hugely successful signing. In Beardsley’s first season he scored 20 goals and immediately became a fan favourite. His partnership with club captain Kevin Keegan was the driving force behind Newcastle’s promotion into Division One in 1985.
Following promotion to the top flight, Beardsley proved he had the class to make the step up and established himself as one of the best players in the league, scoring 17 goals in his first season in Division One. The next season, he continued his tremendous form, scoring 19 goals and leading the Magpies into the top half of the table.
Beardsley was not just a great goal scorer, he also possessed great flair and ball control. He was a maverick with the ball at his feet which made him a nightmare for defenders to deal with. His form for the Magpies soon began to catch the eye of England manager Bobby Robson, who called Beardsley up to the 1986 World Cup squad. The Geordie forward became a regular starter during that tournament and played a key role in the team alongside Golden Boot winner Gary Lineker, who would later describe Beardsley as his best strike partner.
After the World Cup, Beardsley would play one final season for his hometown club, earning a place in the Division One team of the season and helping the Magpies avoid relegation.
Teams Beardsley Played for in Between
Following his great form for Newcastle United, it was inevitable that the top clubs in England would begin to hover over the player. Liverpool were looking to add quality to their squad to regain the title from arch-rivals Everton and manager Kenny Dalglish signed Beardsley for a fee of £1.7 million.
In his first season at Anfield, Beardsley was incredibly successful, scoring 15 goals and helping Liverpool regain the league title. He would lift another League title in 1990 and an FA Cup in 1989. During Beardsley’s Liverpool career, he would score 59 goals in 175 matches however it was his all-action style of play and mazy runs which endeared him to the Anfield faithful. In a 2006 poll, Beardsley was voted 19th in the 100 players who shook The Kop.
In 1991, Liverpool’s city rivals Everton secured the signing of Peter Beardsley for a fee of £1 million. Beardsley had two seasons with the Toffees and was their top scorer during his first year at the club. He also became one of only two players at that time to have scored in a Merseyside derby for both Liverpool and Everton.
Despite strong performances for Everton, he was unable to achieve anything higher than a mid-table finish on the blue side of Merseyside. He would return to Newcastle for £1.5 million as Everton began to struggle with financial difficulties.
Return to Newcastle
Beardsley returned to Newcastle in 1993 after being signed by his former strike partner, Kevin Keegan. The Newcastle side Beardsley joined in his second spell on Tyneside was much more ambitious than the one he had left. They were famously dubbed ‘ The Entertainers’ and were known for their exciting style of play.
In Beardsley’s first season back on Tyneside, Keegan was already setting his sights on The Premiership table. Beardsley and Andy Cole would score a combined total of 55 goals between them, making them the highest-scoring partnership in a Premier League season. After flirting with the title throughout the 1993/94 season, Newcastle would miss out on the title but secured third place, ensuring a successful season and a return to European football for The Magpies in their first top-flight season.
The following season, Newcastle once again looked strong in the Premier League and were in the title race throughout the first half of the season. However, their season dropped off slightly following the sale of Cole to title rivals Manchester United and Keegan’s side finished in sixth, narrowly missing out on European Football.
The Entertainers Miss Out on the Title
The following season will always be remembered as the one that got away for the Toon army. Following the loss of Cole in January, Keegan strengthened significantly in the summer transfer window, spending a total of £16 million on new players, which was a significant amount at the time.
Newcastle bolstered their squad with several signings, the most notable being David Ginola and Les Ferdinand. Ferdinand thrived alongside the creativity of Peter Beardsley and would go on to win the 1996 PFA player of the year. An explosive Newcastle United side led the league table for virtually all of the season from August to March. By January 1996, The Magpies had opened up a 12 point gap at the top of the league table.
Despite this huge lead at the top of the table, results began to unravel for Newcastle struggled to sustain the same level of consistency. Newcastle began to drop points, whereas a resurgent Manchester United were carried by the return of Eric Cantona from suspension and maintained greater momentum in the later stages of the season. In the end, Newcastle would narrowly miss out on the Premiership title and finish in second place.
In the following season, despite another strong start to the campaign, Keegan resigned as manager midway through the campaign. Beardsley thrived in a deeper midfield role under the management of Kenny Dalglish. Once again Newcastle would finish runners up in the Premiership. Beardsley would leave Newcastle for a second time at the end of the season, joining newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers.
Upon his retirement in 1999, Beardsley has held coaching positions at club from 2001 to 2015.