Football: Pearls from Dean, a model goalkeeper

Stephen Brenkley explains how a Cup hero was spot-on with his judgement
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The Independent Online
It was a glorious and memorable penalty save. Dean Beale shimmied slightly to his right and then, as the kick was taken, flung himself to his left. He palmed the ball away but it took an agonising age to make its way up and beyond the post.

When it did, Basingstoke Town had beaten Wycombe Wanderers 5-4 on penalties following a ding-dong, see-saw 2-2 draw in the preceding 120 minutes. It was the first time in their history that they had beaten league opposition and in doing so they became the first non-league side to beat a league side in a penalty shoot-out. Beale's fleetness of foot may also have provided a significant spur to at least one of his other careers.

He is part goalkeeper, part double-glazing fitter and part male model. Goalies who make crucial saves at intensely pressurised moments in FA Cup ties and still get up without a hair out of place may be in demand in the modelling world if not necessarily in the window profession. That save which gave Basingstoke their finest moment ("I prayed as I reached the line") was also Beale's handsome compensation for the bad luck he has suffered in two careers.

Beale, 30, was an outstanding schoolboy footballer who was taken on as an apprentice by his hometown club Southampton. He was in the same year as Dennis Wise and a year ahead of Matthew Le Tissier. Eventually released, he was still optimistic of being signed by another league club when he broke his knee cap. He did not play again for five years. But that wasn't all. The break meant that he could not take part in the finals of a modelling competition for which the first prize was an agency contract.

"It hammered me on two fronts," said Beale. "The knee just wouldn't work but when I was 23 I was determined to get back after spending years just playing golf and darts. I've stuck at it and Wednesday was the sort of moment you live for as a footballer." He revived his modelling career two years ago and still does shows for catalogues and fashion stores, strutting his stuff in Armani and Boss. "I'm more jeans and T-shirt myself," he said.

If Beale has been the centre of attention since Wednesday night and is likely to remain so at least until Basingstoke's second-round tie against Northampton next Saturday - when a new hero might emerge - he has been prevented from flying too high by his pragmatic manager, Ernie Howe.

"It was just what we wanted and he deserved it," said Howe. "But he's had an up and down sort of season and he knows it himself. For Wycombe's second goal in normal time he might have regretted throwing the ball to the full-back who was caught in possession."

Howe is in his fifth season at Basingstoke and last year guided them to promotion to the Premier Division of the Icis League, now the Ryman League. They have had a hard time of it but their Cup run, which has included four replay victories, has been a growing diversion.

It compares with anything that Steve Richardson, their one ex-league player experienced in almost 440 games as a left-back with Reading. "I suppose going to Wembley in the Simod Cup 10 years ago was the peak but on Wednesday night it was as emotional as I've ever felt on a football field. When Dean made the save I stood still for a long moment not believing what I'd just seen. It made me sixth in the queue to mob him."

Howe, a veteran of Fulham, Queen's Park Rangers and Portsmouth, is now trying to assess Northampton's weaknesses. He has already spoken to John Hollins about them and after Burnley's match against them yesterday will have a natter next week with Glenn Roeder, the coach at Turf Moor. His planning, as Wycombe will testify, should not be underestimated.

Perhaps it is Howe as much as Beale who should take the credit for the heart-stopping penalty save. The kicker, Kevin Scott, had scored from the spot for Wycombe the previous weekend. Howe's video of the match showed he had hit it to the goalkeeper's left.

"Seeing that, I told Dean to go that way. Luckily, he listened."