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Bez Lifts the Lid...
 Life with United...and beyond   Part XX

The final game of the season, and our last wee chat with the boy Bez for a while.

As we find out, Villa at home was nearly the end of a beautiful friendship with him and St.Kevin...... 

ooh, aah cover star....          

NUFC 1 AVFC 0 14.4.96 (Ferdinand)

What else could we ask John about but the infamous Keegan incident when John reacted to some touchline instructions in a certain way that earned him an early substitution.

"It all actually started on Friday when we were talking through how Villa 
might play. Keegan told me he wanted me to tuck inside because Villa 
were likely to play with three forwards; Dwight Yorke, Tommy Johnson 
and Savo Milosevic. I said, "That's fine, but David (Ginola) won't track 
back." Keegan insisted that he'd have a word with David and to leave it 
to him to sort out. I protested and said that Gary Charles would have 
field-day down the right because I knew Ginola wouldn't come back and 
help out the defence. KK said he'd sort it."

"When it came to the game, Villa broke forward and I was tucked inside. 
Yorke spread the ball out to Charles and when I tried to clear it the ball 
fell for Yorke who smashed it just wide of the post. Keegan had a right 
go at me, saying I was tucked too far in. I shouted back, "I told you 
David wouldn't f***in' track back," but Keegan shouted that it was my 
fault. At that point I turned and told him where to go...."

"As soon as I'd done it I could see he was scrambling for the substitution 
board and I could see Robbie (Elliott) was warming up. I thought, "I've got 30 seconds until the ball next goes out of play to score with a spectacular 40 yard screamer." 

[Funnily enough, Bez actually did hit one like that a couple of seasons later against Villa].

"As I came off I was still angry and still had a go before sitting on the
bench. Once I'd calmed down I remember asking Arthur Cox what he thought the best way to approach Keegan was. Should I ring him, see him on Monday or what? Arthur said, see him as soon as the game's finished and get it sorted. I did that and went to see him in his office. Apart from getting down on my knees and begging I did everything I could to apologise and asked how I could make amends. He sat there stoney-faced and then said, "OK, no problem."

"I knew that Keegan had a reputation of not forgiving, so I wasn't really
sure if I'd get back into the team. It was probably the following summer before I felt like I'd got back into his good books. I turned up for pre-season the fittest I'd ever been and worked really hard in pre-season. He would give me 45 minutes and Robbie 45, so I still wasn't sure who was his first choice but luckily when the season started I got the nod."

"Even now, Keegan hasn't forgotten it. When we went up for the Peter 
Beardsley testimonial he was saying hello to all the former players and 
when it came to me he said, 'Alright John, you're not going to tell me to 
f*** off again are you...?'"

NUFC 3 AVFC 1 25.2.95 (Beardsley 2, Venison)

Barry Venison scored his one and only goal against Villa - a spectacular 
25-yard belter. I asked John if he remembered it.

"I do, in fact I think I was one of the first to get to him after he scored.

Venners was one of the best players in that side and we really missed 
him when he left. He was a great captain, a great talker and motivator 
on the pitch and when he left no-one really took over in the defence. Steve Howey was still a young lad, Philippe Albert wasn't really very vocal and we missed an organiser at the back. 

It probably wasn't until Stuart Pearce arrived that we had a real leader in the back four. It's vital to have someone like that. Although Steve Bruce was probably the only non-international in the Man United side that he played in, they'll all tell you how crucial he was to their success."

Niall MacKenzie

Page last updated 24 June, 2009