He was arguably the most gifted player ever to hail from Carlisle – and now two men are set to walk all the way from the city of his birth to his adopted home in his memory.

Kevin Beattie’s immense football legacy is to be celebrated with the setting up of a foundation in his name. Malcolm Thompson knew the Botcherby boy well and, along with a friend, is embarking on a huge walk from Carlisle to Ipswich in a bid to raise funds.

They will set off from Beattie’s original home city tomorrow and, over 13 days, work their way down the country from Brunton Park to Portman Road – the Suffolk stadium where he made his name as a player, and the town where he settled after retirement.

He is revered in Ipswich, where fans regard him as their greatest player for his exploits from 1972-81. A statue of Beattie is to be erected outside their ground, while Malcolm wants to commemorate him in another, long-lasting way.

Malcolm said: “Once, when I held a charity night, Kevin said, ‘I really hope one day my name will help others in the future.’

“I thought, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ I looked at Kevin and said, ‘Mate, your name will always be in the history books as Town’s greatest player and I’m sure your name will help others’.

“Deep down I wasn’t sure how. He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Yeah, ‘course it will.’

“That conversation stayed with me and, now a statue is going to be placed outside the ground, paid for by the fans, I had a lightbulb moment and decided to set up a foundation, so Kevin’s name will always help others in years to come.”

Beattie, who died of a heart attack in 2018 aged 64, was rated by Sir Bobby Robson as the most talented English footballer of his generation: someone who should have won many more England caps than the nine he accrued.

He also, Malcolm said, was keen to support good causes, such as the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, the Alfie Lund Fund and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The foundation in his name will aim to raise funds for a range of charities and causes, with this walk also supporting Prostate Cancer UK. “The Kevin Beattie Foundation will bring to the forefront the need for the awareness of certain illness and wellbeing and charities,” a mission statement says.

In order to get it off the ground, the walking challenge – named “Sore Feet for the Beat” – will be undertaken. The initiative has attracted some high-profile support, from great footballers such as Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa to the cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, himself no stranger to a charity walk. A mention by Jeff Stelling on last weekend’s Gillette Soccer Saturday also raised the event’s profile.

The two men taking part expect the 320-mile trek to require 13 days before they arrive at Ipswich’s Portman Road on Saturday, October 10. They are planning a small get-together tonight at Beattie’s former local – the Magpie Inn at Botcherby – while some Carlisle fans are planning to join them for the first stages of the walk.

“The challenge will be hard –13 days non-stop is a test,” adds Malcolm, 57.

They had intended to do the walk earlier in the year, only for the coronavirus outbreak to interrupt it. They believe it can now be done safely, with the men staying in various hotels en route. They are still looking for sponsorship to help with food and accommodation, but will pay for themselves if needs be.

“We are looking forward to seeing a lot of the country by foot,” Malcolm says. When they do, it will be with Beattie firmly in mind. A rare and magnificent footballer, Beattie illuminated Ipswich with 307 appearances before knee problems forced his early retirement, at 28.

As Malcolm explains: “Kevin, or The Beat as most knew him, was voted the greatest player ever to have played for Ipswich Town, and to be fair there is no competition from anyone because Kevin was that great.

“As a fan on the terraces I always knew he was a fantastic player. He was strong, powerful and a great header of the ball. As Sir Bobby Robson once said, Kevin was the best player England never had, meaning he would have been a regular for England was it not for his injuries.

“As a fan I was very lucky to have got to know Kevin later on as a friend and, most Friday nights, I was on the phone with him talking about next day’s game.

“From those conversations, certain things always remain with me. For instance, he never called Sir Bobby Robson anything other than ‘Boss’, and I challenge anyone to look back on video archives and show me where he said ‘Sir Bobby’ or ‘Bobby’. He always referred to him as ‘Boss’!

“Kevin for me wasn’t an England international or the legend that he has become. To me Kevin was just Kevin, and that speaks volumes, because that is how he was with people and why his relationship with the fans was something special.”

Malcolm said it was fitting to start the walk in the city of Beattie’s birth, a place the great footballer often referred to as he described his humble beginnings. “There were times I didn’t go to school because I didn’t have any shoes,” the great player once said, reflecting on his Botcherby childhood.

“I had four brothers and four sisters, and there would be times I would have nothing to eat for two or three days, unless my dad won a game of dominoes at the pub and got the fish and chips in. But my teacher at St Cuthbert’s School, Mr Rafferty, bought me a pair of boots. They were my crown jewels. I looked after them like nothing else on earth. Even at that age, football was a release for me.”

Malcolm is hoping people from Beattie’s home city will support the cause. “Kevin always looked out for Carlisle’s results,” he said, “so I know he would be so happy to know that the Carlisle fans helped to make his dream come true.”

He adds that his effort to set up the foundation has had help from the Professional Footballers’ Association, and the blessing of Beattie’s family.

* For more information, and to donate, visit www.sorefeet.live, or contact info@sorefeet.live or call 07743171773. Kevin Beattie Foundation calendars can also be purchased for £4.99.