Following his recent death, Kevin Beattie's autobiography, ‘The Greatest Footballer England Never Had’, written by Rob Finch, has been reprinted. The News & Star is carrying exclusive extracts this week. Today we feature the great Carlisle-born player's memories of his tough upbringing on the streets of Botcherby.

I was christened Thomas Beattie, though I soon dropped the Thomas part and used my middle name of Kevin.

My Dad was also called Thomas Beattie and I had got sick of answering calls for “Tommy” only to find that it was Dad somebody wanted and not me.

Dad was also a renowned fighter, with a bit of a reputation on the estate where I lived, and so carving out a separate name, as well as a separate identity, was important to me.

My Grandmother’s maiden name was Tudor and it is rumoured that she was a descendent of the famous Tudor dynasty, which at one time ruled the land. Whilst my blue-blooded ancestors would have lived in grand palaces and country mansions, my own upbringing was held in very different circumstances.

I can’t think of too many members of the Royal family who were brought up in a council house in Botcherby.

Dad worked for the National Coal Board, delivering coal, and Mum worked as a cleaner in a shop for the Lipton Tea Company. Neither of them earned very good wages, so money was always an issue.

Eventually Dad had to pack in work altogether due to a back complaint and tough times subsequently became even tougher.

Dad was a great man when he was sober - as he would be kind and thoughtful. However, when he had been drinking, he would want to take on everyone.

There were a few people on the estate that tried their luck with him and regretted it, and I can also remember getting a clip round the ear for my troubles when I stepped out of line.

Unfortunately for me, his hands were big - literally the size of a shovel - so when I did get a clump it wasn’t one ear that felt the force but both of them.

After he lost his job, he found solace in a drink. As a result, Mum was left to make ends and feed a big family - I also had four brothers and four sisters.

The food for the week would be bought on a Friday, but by the following Monday, it was invariably gone. For the rest of the week, there was often only food on the table when Dad had backed a winning horse, or else won a game of darts, or dominoes down at the local pub.

With an empty stomach to fill, I took to raiding the local allotments for fruit and vegetables, so I could bring something back for Mum to cook. She would ask where it had come from and I would tell her that it had been given to me. I’m not sure she always believed what I said, but with nothing in the cupboards, she wasn’t in a position to query things too much.

I was also fortunate in that I had two good pals at the time, whose families ran a fish and chip shop and an ice-cream parlour respectively. Their parents took something of a shine to me and if I hadn’t eaten anything that day then they would make sure that I didn’t go hungry.

We lived in a three-bedroom house and with so many of us in the family I shared not just a bedroom but a bed. Living so far north meant that it would get unbearably cold and Mum and Dad would have to throw coats over the bed to help keep us warm.

During one particularly bad winter, we were still freezing, so Dad had to take drastic action: he couldn’t afford to pay the bills and as he wasn’t prepared to see his family going cold, he managed to fix the electricity meter so that we got a free supply.

It was fine for a while, however the electricity board soon found out and the police were called. The authorities seemed to be sending out the message that they wouldn’t tolerate this kind of thing as, a few weeks later, after appearing in court, he was sentenced to three months in Durham Prison.

I can remember going with Mum for a day out to see him and as it was the first time I had been away from Carlisle, I treated it as a great adventure and something of a day out.

It was as if we were heading out for a day at the seaside, rather than to a maximum security prison, and never once did I feel intimidated or bad about where I was going.

When we arrived, it was good to see Dad, as he hadn’t been able to get access to alcohol and he was back to displaying the kind and generous side of his nature that I loved.

The whole day was a great success and I wanted to go back again as soon as possible. It sounds bizarre when you consider the circumstances of the visit, but I can even remember posing for photographs against the backdrop of the Durham skyline, where you could clearly see the prison in the background.

Although the visit to the prison hadn’t been at all traumatic, or cause for any sense of shame within the family, it certainly provoked a response from some of the neighbours.

Eventually some of the local kids started to make sarcastic remarks. I didn’t like what I heard and I found myself involved in a few fights over it all. Although, deep down, I couldn’t really see anything to feel embarrassed about.

As far as I could see, all Dad had done was help his family and I didn’t see anything wrong with that.

Following Kevin’s untimely passing, a limited amount of books have been reprinted. For more information on purchasing a copy, please email the book’s author Rob Finch at

The book is priced £14.99. Mention the News & Star when contacting Rob and he will donate the postage costs to the British Heart Foundation - the charity Kevin’s family have asked people to support since his death on September 16.

The book is also available on Amazon and eBay.