Only defeat in last season's promotion play-offs prevented Beck hauling impoverished Cambridge all the way from the Fourth Division into the Premier League in successive seasons. There were also memorable runs, back-to-back, to the FA Cup quarter-finals as his unique methods - an extreme interpretation of direct play in which players in every position were encouraged to punt the ball long and high - worked to great effect.
Nobody complained at the Abbey Stadium, although opponents let it be known they despised the Cambridge diet and Beck was criticised for taking gamesmanship too far.
It all began to fall apart at the end of last season when players began questioning the methods and quit. With Dion Dublin's pounds 1m sale to Manchester United went much of the team's potency, and there have been signs of a rift between manager and board over what was available for him to spend.
Reg Smart, the Cambridge chairman, has turned down other approaches, but is willing to sanction Beck's release this time. 'It has all been done through the proper channels,' he said. 'Preston asked for permission to speak to John and we have given it.'
Another managerial post became vacant yesterday with the dismissal of Chester City's Harry McNally after seven years in charge. Chester are two points adrift at the bottom of the Second Division after only one win.
Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, has called on the Football League to publicise its findings from the investigation into the affairs at financially troubled Barnet. The players of the Third Division club, in revolt once more after being asked to accept a wage cut, are threatening a walk- out before their next home game with Crewe on 31 October.
'There are irregularities which are causing major problems,' Taylor said. 'League investigators have already been to Barnet and found problems with book-keeping, and it is imperative they make a statement as quickly as possible.'
Jan Molby will be missing from Liverpool's team for three weeks after damaging ankle ligaments in Sunday's game with Manchester United. But Peter Ndlovu, Coventry's Zimbabwean international, will be available for Saturday's home match against Chelsea because of the postponement of his country's World Cup qualifying match in Angola.
The West Bromwich Albion manager, Osvaldo Ardiles, has enquired about Kevin Wilson, Notts County's Northern Ireland international striker.
Swindon's player-manager, Glenn Hoddle, has named himself among the substitutes for the Football League team who tonight take on an Italian Serie B XI at Ashton Gate, Bristol. West Ham's Martin Allen will captain the home team, who lost 2-1 in the corresponding fixture in Caserta in March.Reuse content