Football: Beasant lurches back to limelight

Simon Turnbull explains why Forest owe a debt to their emergency keeper
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They dubbed Dave Beasant "Lurch" in his Crazy Gang days and when the 1997-98 season kicked off his career was in danger of lurching into obscurity. Out of the first-team frame at Southampton, having been deemed a culpable sinner midway through the Saints' fight against relegation last season, the giant Londoner seemed to be facing the end of the goalkeeping line at the age of 38. Four months later, he is being hailed as a saviour once again and is also on course for a return to the Premiership.

Ask the faithful followers of Nottingham Forest whether the return of Steve Stone or the return to goalscoring form of Pierre Van Hooijdonk has been the key to their team's First Division promotion challenge and they will point to the 6ft 4in last line of defence instead. Beasant, by all accounts, has been back to his shot-stopping best. "I started the season at Southampton knowing full well I was going to be nowhere near the first team," he said, "so I have been surprised with what's happened since. But all the time I knew I was capable of doing a job for someone. The problem was convincing others of that. People keep telling me I've done very well here but I always knew I had a lot left in me."

Just how much Beasant had left surprised even Dave Bassett. It was strictly as an emergency, short-term measure that the Forest manager, his boss at Wimbledon from 1981 to 1987, called upon him in the second week of the season. With all three of his goalkeepers on the injured list, Bassett secured his services on loan. But in his first game, a 1-0 win at Oxford, Beasant took the man of the match honours. And he has been collecting the plaudits ever since. He has also secured a permanent move, on a free- transfer, and a contract to the end of next season.

"When I first came here I thought it was just going to be short term," he said, "but I very much wanted to stay at Forest. Now I have the security of a contract up to next year and the chance to play in the top level at 40. I always said I wanted to do that. People like Steve Ogrizovic have done it but it would be an elite club to join."

Beasant would move a step closer to membership if he managed to keep another clean sheet this afternoon. Forest play Wolves at Molineux, where their veteran custodian spent an unhappy time on loan from Chelsea five years ago. Beasant has not been back there, in fact, since the last of those four games, a 2-1 defeat against Brentford - neither the first nor the last disappointment in a career of peaks and troughs.

It was as a centre-forward that he hoped to make it, playing as a towering target-man for Old Uffingtonians. He was a goalkeeper, though, when Dario Gradi watched him play for Edgeware Town and paid pounds 1,000 to sign him for Wimbledon in 1979.

Nine years later he became the first man to save an FA Cup final penalty, thwarting John Aldridge and Liverpool as hero and captain of the Dons at Wembley. He subsequently gained another place in the record books, as Britain's most expensive goalkeeper, but his pounds 850,000 move to Newcastle lasted a mere six months before he returned to London with Chelsea.

It was at Stamford Bridge, under Ian Porterfield, that Beasant endured his most torrid time between the posts. He never, though, lost faith in his ability. "People have talked a lot about mistakes I have made," he said, "but I can honestly say it's never really preyed on my mind." The new Trent End idol is, after all, an England international. He won his two caps as a stand-in for Peter Shilton, the finest Forest keeper of them all.