In today’s second exclusive extract from his autobiography, ‘The Greatest Footballer England Never Had’, written by Rob Finch, the late Carlisle-born football great Kevin Beattie recalls his rise to stardom as a young top-flight player

I enjoyed a terrific first season and was a virtual ever-present. I was also named Ipswich Town player of the season. I was also picked to represent England in what was termed ‘The Little World Cup’ - which was held in Barcelona.

I got to line up alongside the likes of Trevor Francis and my old mate from Liverpool - Phil Thompson.

It was essentially a World Cup-style tournament for players under 21 years old. It was a lovely experience, topped off when we beat West Germany 2-1 in the final.

I don’t know what you get for winning a World Cup these days, but we each received a watch - an illustration of how times have changed. Although I suppose I do have the honour of being able to lay claim to being a World Cup winner of sorts - even if I didn’t get my hands on the big one.

My ongoing success allowed me to keep one thing quiet at this time - namely the fact that my vision was really poor and I needed to wear glasses. For a time I tried wearing contact lenses during games but in those days they were very primitive and I found them uncomfortable to wear.

They also kept popping out - especially when I headed the ball, so in the end I stopped using them. Obviously laser surgery wasn’t an option in those days, so I had no alternative but to play with less than perfect vision.

Things were fine close up, but play at a distance was very blurred - for example I often saw ‘double’ and I sometimes saw what appeared to be two players running with the ball at me.

Fortunately I always tackled the correct one and it was never something that became an issue.

In a funny way I actually think it made me a better player; as it improved my awareness and intuition and I developed a sixth sense about where I should be.

That said, I certainly didn’t want it to become public knowledge; it could have given opposition players an advantage, so I kept it quiet and continued with the job in hand - namely playing football.

It was around this time that the club also began looking at things like training and diet. I had up until this point always enjoyed eating a fillet steak for my pre-match meal - as had a few of the other players.

However, the boss (Bobby Robson) discovered that they took up to eight hours to digest and as a result was keen to put a stop to it all.

I was always mindful of how it had been back home in Carlisle when a meal could be a rarity and so when there was good food on the table I was always first in the queue.

The big meals wouldn’t work for everyone, but they were certainly doing me no harm and in my opinion it really is a case of each to their own, so I kept my steak dinners going and the boss turned a blind eye to things.

I also remember once speaking to Ted Phillips - the great Ipswich Town striker from the 1960s and he told me his pre-match meal often consisted of: sausage, eggs, beans and chips…

Not long afterwards, I was told to get hold of a dinner suit and bow-tie - as the Professional Footballers Association awards function was to be held at the prestigious Hilton Hotel in London.

Upon our arrival, we were seated in a large ballroom - which was a very luxurious affair and it was only then that I was told by the boss that I had been nominated for an award and I had a great chance of winning it.

He was correct: later on I was called up onto the stage by Don Revie - who told me that I had won the inaugural PFA Young Footballer of the Year trophy.

It was a fantastic accolade to have bestowed upon me and it is one which has subsequently been awarded to some truly magnificent footballers: with the likes of Paul Gascoigne; Ryan Giggs, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney also winning the award.

I was thrilled - not only at the nature of such a terrific prize, but also because I didn’t know anything about it and so it was totally unexpected.

Whilst on stage, Mr Revie again told me how told me how much he rated me as a player and that he thought I would have a long and illustrious career at international level which was also great to hear.

When I returned to my seat, I was also told that I had made the PFA Team of the Season - as voted for by my fellow professionals. It meant that I was rated by the opposition and not just my teammates - which obviously meant a lot to me.

I was to be subsequently awarded this honour every season for the next three years which should how well and consistent I played during this time.

A couple of days later I also won the Rothman Young Footballer of the Year award - so all in all, it was a fantastic season for me.

If I thought that things couldn’t get any better - then I was wrong. I had continued to make excellent progress in the England Under-23 team and I was requested by Sir Alf Ramsey to attend training with the full England squad.

It was less than three years since I had been arrived from Carlisle with nothing - so my progress had been phenomenal.

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.