By FRANK MALLEY
John Bean, who has died at the age of 81, was from the old school of sports reporting.
‘Beano’, as he was invariably known, was a man with a bulging contacts book, a ready wit and an engaging nature. A man who made friends as well contacts.
John started his career on the Leek Post and the Evening Sentinel in Stoke before moving on to the Daily Sketch and then the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express, where he reported mainly on Manchester United in the late 1970s and 1980s and on the way became a legend himself in northern press boxes.
Beano’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson was tempestuous but full of mutual respect. If you did not fall out with the great man on an occasional basis you were not doing your job. It was a rich source of anecdotes and prompted John to write a book after his retirement which, sadly, was never published for fear of legal ramifications.
I had the fortune to ring John last Friday afternoon for an impromptu catch-up, not knowing that he would pass away in the early hours of the following morning.
He was tired and at first his voice was weak after having suffered a heart attack at Christmas, which had left him unable to walk more than 50 metres without becoming seriously fatigued. But as soon as we started chatting about old times he was back to the animated and entertaining Beano we all knew and loved. He used to call everyone “Matey”.
He chuckled about those run-ins with Fergie and his famous soft-shoe shuffle on the tables of countless bars and restaurants, a sand dance with salt cellars emptied to take the place of sand.
He admitted his fondest memories were saved for his time reporting on the Republic of Ireland and an era when manager Jack Charlton made international football reporting fun with the highlight of his career reporting on the World Cup in Italy in 1990.
Down the years Beano’s friends and contacts were like a Who’s Who of the game. Sir Stanley Matthews, George Best, Sir Alf Ramsey, Gordon Banks.
But his family were the richest source of pride and during our impromptu chat he wanted above all to tell me about the work his eldest son Richard was doing at a Syrian refugee centre in the north west.
John leaves wife Ann and four children, Richard, Kerry, Robert and Patrick as well as seven grandchildren.
He also leaves a legacy of sporting anecdotes and stories which will be passed down the generations.