John Alexander Beck (born Edmonton, London 25 May 1954) is an evil genius who led Cambridge United to the brink of the Premier League with a mixture of ugly, ugly football and borderline cheating.
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Beck took over Cambridge in 1990 they were far from a footballing superpower. Nonetheless the wily Beck led his charges to back-to-back promotions and collected a museum of FA Cup scalps, twice reaching the quarter-finals of the sacred competition.
Cambridge were on the brink of pulling off their third consecutive promotion and becoming founder members of the Premier League before it dawned on everyone just how silly that would be.
The secret of Beck’s success
Beck’s Cambridge side, which contained people like Dion Dublin and Steve Claridge, played route one football. The cunning coach instilled the belief that one pass was better than two and it was rare for players to bother passing the ball less than 80 yards.
To suit this style of play, Beck ensured that the grass around the corner flags was wild and uncut for months to slow down the huge speculative balls from his defenders. The corners of the pitch developed their own eco-systems and it was all too common to see a player go to take a corner only to be mauled by a cougar.
Beck was also a big fan of gamesmanship. He personally moved the opposition dugout to a position where the manager was more or less unable to see the action (the new site was three miles west of the Abbey Stadium).
The visiting team would be given half-inflated balls, or sometimes rugby balls, for their warm-up. The away dressing room was painted bright pink and the visiting players had to share it with a local ballet company and a surly foreign university student called Ivan.
Meanwhile in the home dressing room a picture of unpopular dictator Saddam Hussein was attached to the door to get the United players’ blood pumping.
Famously Beck also forced his players to have cold showers before the game. The reason for that is still unknown.
In the end Beck was given the heave-ho, but years later a document of his future plans was unearthed with ideas ranging from ‘replacing water with soy sauce in the away showers’ to ‘blowing up away team coach on arrival.’
This dangerous nutter is now an assistant at Conference miracle club Histon.
Beck seems to be having an effect as Crawley Town boss Steve Evans claimed: ‘if I lived 50 yards from Histon’s ground and they gave me a season ticket free I wouldn’t go.’
Evans practiced what he preached and didn’t attend Crawley’s away game against Histon moaning that: ‘I’d just be bored, I’ll take the wife out instead.’
In a recent interview, Beck described accusations of gamesmanship as ‘cobblesticks’.