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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ex-QPR's John Beck Profiled (currently at non-League Histon]


[Remember John Beck - along with another QPR Reserve John Delve - first coming to the fore in our 1972-73 promotion season, and then being a midfield backup for the next two or three seasons (basically being Gerry Francis understudy, which was no easy task - especially in the days of only one sub on the bench)]

Beck finds shelter from derision as Histon take aim at Boro
The Guardian - Richard Polkey - Wednesday December 14, 2005
Motivation is unlikely to be a problem for the players of the non-league sides Histon and Nuneaton Borough when they meet in their FA Cup second-round replay at the Cambridgeshire club's Glass World Stadium tonight. Middlesbrough at home await the winners in a game which, even if it has yet to be selected for live television, would be worth at least £100,000 in prize money and sponsorship.
Should Histon go through to the third round for the first time in their history, it would be another remarkable step in a climb from the obscurity of the Eastern Counties League. They were on the brink of financial extinction before being rescued by the current chairman Gareth Baldwin - but are now within two promotions of achieving League status.
It might also prove another step in the rehabilitation of John Beck, one of the most derided, or most traduced, coaches in football's recent history. It is definitely the latter according to Baldwin, who was working in Cambridge United's commercial department during the three years in the early 90s when Beck managed the Us to two promotions and within a single match of becoming inaugural members of the Premiership.
Baldwin's abiding memory is of the manner in which Beck was pilloried for demanding absolute adherence to a system of simple, one-touch football, long balls into the corners and endlessly rehearsed set-pieces. He was relentlessly mocked for ideas such as making his players take cold showers before games; so much so that it has become accepted wisdom that some of the Cambridge players - Dion Dublin, Liam Daish and Steve Claridge for example - achieved as much as they did despite rather than because of Beck's coaching.
That the experience left Beck embittered is no surprise, according to Baldwin. "It was incredible looking back because he was and is an outstanding coach. But because he could be abrasive and rub people up the wrong way he got slaughtered. Put it this way; we're delighted to have him working with Steve Fallon, our manager, and the players thoroughly enjoy working with him."
That much is obvious at Histon's twice-weekly training sessions under temporary floodlights - wheeled into position and started up by Beck - on the playing fields of Clare College. What is equally apparent is that Beck, who went on to manage Preston, Lincoln and, briefly, Cambridge again before having several years out of the game, is enjoying working at a club where the emphasis is on enjoyment as well as progress.
"It can be frustrating just having the players twice a week plus Saturdays but they're a great bunch and one thing I've learned is that whether you're playing, managing or coaching, all success is relative," said Beck. "When they've all been out working all day there's only so much they can give you. The next step, maybe if we go up to the Conference, is to train three times a week but in the meantime we do what we can to keep improving."
His belief that football is essentially a simple game to which organisation is the key, especially at set-pieces, remains unchanged, although as an individual he accepts he has mellowed. "Yeah, probably, but most of us do as we get older. I don't think I've changed in always working to improve. I believe any club, including this one, can genuinely aspire to Premiership status. It needs a chairman who understands what the manager and coaching staff are trying to do and doesn't get frustrated if there's a bad patch.
"One of the great things about Histon is there's no back-biting; whatever the result we're in it together. If we lose to Nuneaton we'll accept it, brush ourselves down and concentrate on promotion."
Fallon, who played more than 400 games for Cambridge, still finds himself having to temper Beck's more impulsive tendencies. "After five minutes of a game he'll turn to me and say 'X isn't doing it today, better take him off'," smiles the manager. "At Maidenhead on Saturday we played three centre-backs, were leading 2-0 and comfortable, and he still wanted to change things around, but that's part of him always wanting us to be better.
"I certainly don't think anyone could accuse us of being a long-ball team. We work hard but try to mix it up, not to be too predictable, and our good players cause most teams problems."
For John Beck, simply being involved again is reward enough. "You miss the buzz that comes from a good result of course, but above all you miss the camaraderie and togetherness. Am I enjoying football again? Certainly."

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