JIM BEGLIN’S input in Leeds United’s 1989-90 Division Two title-winning class may not have been the most telling – but contributions did arrive.
The Waterford-born defender arrived at United on a free transfer in July 1989 after an injury-ravaged final few years at Liverpool, who he famously helped lift the league and cup double under the command of player-manager Kenny Dalglish in an outstanding 1985-86 campaign when the Reds were the talk of football.
Bought for £20,000 by Anfield legend Bob Paisley in May 1983 from Shamrock Rovers, Beglin’s career on Merseyside was set fair until a horrific leg break in the Merseyside derby against Everton on January 21, 1987 – which not only put the brakes on his Liverpool career, but also his hopes of featuring for the Republic of Ireland in some crucial Euro ’88 qualifiers and also the tournament itself.
The offending tackle from Toffees defender Gary Stevens was described by Beglin’s Liverpool team-mate Alan Hansen as ‘a mile high and an hour late’ – although the Scot later professed to regret making the comments.
Rehabilitation was gruelling and extensive for the Irishman – who turns 51 tomorrow – and lasted the best part of 18 months, only for another fateful injury to cruelly end his Anfield career.
Beglin, the final player bought by iconic boss Paisley, suffered a serious cartilage injury in a reserve match in October 1988, a blow he would not fully recover from. Despite being just in his mid to late twenties, Beglin’s career was at a worrying crossroads, with it being Howard Wilkinson who offered him a potential lifeline in the close season of 1989 as part of his extensive rebuilding job at Elland Road. Beglin was one of a host of new recruits in a frentic period of summer activity, which saw marquee signings Mel Sterland, John Hendrie and Vinnie Jones come in along with Beglin, Chris Kamara, Chris O’Donnell, John McClelland and Mickey Thomas.
Beglin made his Whites debut alongside Hendrie, Sterland, Thomas and McClelland in the infamous 5-2 defeat to Newcastle United when the visitors let slip a 2-1 lead inside the opening half-hour to the hosts, inspired by four-goal Micky Quinn.
The left-back didn’t feature in the home opener with Middlesbrough, when a crazy late own goal from Gary Parkinson gave United the spoils with Mike Whitlow taking the shirt, with Beglin’s season a frustrating stop-start affair, although it wasn’t without some important contributions at the business end of the campaign when his experience was called upon.
A loan spell to get some much-needed game-time arrived at Plymouth Argyle in November 1989 which helped him back to fitness and the spring-time saw Beglin feature in a number of key games for the Whites.
The memorable 4-0 Easter Monday slaying of Sheffield United and the similarly unforgettable 2-1 Elland Road success over Leicester City saw Beglin start.
Beglin also started on that fateful day on the south coast at Bournemouth on May 5, 1990 when United clinched both promotion and the title amid sun-drenched scenes at Dean Court, providing the silverware polish which he was accustomed to at Liverpool.
Unfortunately, injury and fitness issues continued to bedevil Beglin, who was sent out on loan for a second spell, to Blackburn Rovers in October 1990, which he made six appearances before he returned to West Yorkshire.
Beglin’s last game for Leeds arrived in the Zenith Data Systems win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux in December 1990, before his troublesome knee injury finally ended his professional career the following year at the age of just 27.
Fortunately, a second footballing career was to beckon for Beglin, who is now a co-commentator on BT Sport, having previously performed that role with aplomb for ITV.