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Alan Pattullo on Owen Beck, great read


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16 minutes ago, Reverend Lovejoy said:

 

Anatomy of Owen Beck loan transfer from Liverpool back to Dundee despite Celtic and Rangers interest

How Anfield youngster went from Premier League debut to Dens Park return within space of 10 days
 

Owen Beck during his Liverpool debut in the Premier League match against Bournemouth on January 21, 2024. Pic: Graham Hunt/ProSports/Shutterstock Owen Beck during his Liverpool debut in the Premier League match against Bournemouth on January 21, 2024. 

 

Although they had shared a special moment just over a week earlier when swapping places in the Liverpool first team, a sudden change of plans meant Owen Beck watched best pal and fellow full-back Conor Bradley's first goal for the Anfield club on Wednesday night against Chelsea from afar.

Beck was sitting in the bar of his Dundee city centre hotel having resumed his Dundee career the previous evening against Aberdeen. That development had been set in motion by a substitution over 500 miles away in Bournemouth a couple of Sundays ago.

At around 6.15 pm on 21 January, Jurgen Klopp gave Beck a pat on the back before sending him on in place of Bradley for the last seven minutes of Liverpool’s win on the South Coast. In truth, the left-back's Premier League debut actually lasted 15 minutes, once the referee had added eight minutes on at the end. Beck relished every last second of it. He was on the park for the last of the goals, scored by Darwin Nunez.

 

Owen Beck made his second 'debut' for Dundee in the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Tuesday. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group) Owen Beck made his second 'debut' for Dundee in the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Tuesday. 

 

The cameo was of huge significance for the Beck family – Owen’s great uncle is Ian Rush, one of the greatest players in the Anfield club’s history, and out on his own as greatest goalscorer. It also caused a stir in a living room in Broughty Ferry. “My phone blew up,” says Dundee manager Tony Docherty.

 

There are transfers and there are transfers, loan moves and loan moves. Hundreds have been completed this week, many of them cross-Border ones. But one in particular seemed notable, since it involved the current leaders of the English Premier League and a team sitting in the middle of the Scottish top-flight as well as - if speculation is to be believed - both sides of the Old Firm. Even the mighty Celtic, who were desperate for cover at left-back, and Rangers are left impotent by red tape - specifically a rule found in Fifa regulations for the Status and Transfers of Players, Chapter III: Registrations of players, Article 5.3.

In short, players are allowed to play in official matches for only two clubs in a single season. It's not often football fans, in this case Dundee supporters, cheer small print.

Docherty takes up the story. "I remember walking off the park at Rugby Park (v Kilmarnock) just before New Year, the 2-2 game. He was carrying an injury and I said, 'Can you do it again?' He nodded his head. Remember, he had just run through and hit the bar. He could have won the game for us in typical Owen Beck-style, when he grabs the game by the scruff of the neck.

 

Dundee manager Tony Docherty with Owen Beck back in August. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group) Dundee manager Tony Docherty with Owen Beck back in August. 

 

“I said to him, 'Can you go again wee man for the next game?' He said, 'Of course gaffer, I am ready'. I thought, 'What a boy....'"

Several managers had already said the same thing, often while sharing a drink with Docherty after a game. In his previous match against Celtic, Beck had kept flying winger Daizen Maeda in check right under the nose of Brendan Rodgers. "I didn't speak to him (Rodgers) properly," says Beck, when we met earlier this week. "He just said something like, 'You had a good game'."

Celtic were soon linked with the player, as were Rangers. But having signed a season-long loan with Dundee, it all seemed academic. Until it wasn't. Docherty recalls sitting in his manager's office on Hogmanay while preparing for the league clash with St Johnstone on 2 January.

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"I was in the office here when my phone rang. Matt Newberry’s name came up. Please no! Stuart (Taylor, Docherty's assistant) was sitting there, where you are. I showed him whose name had come up. We just looked at each other."

Newberry is the respected head of academy recruitment at Liverpool who had facilitated the loan in the first place. Introductions were made by Willo Flood, who Docherty worked with at Dundee United and Aberdeen. Flood is now an agent.

But there was nothing Flood, Docherty or even Newberry could do now. Klopp had reviewed his squad, assessed the busy month ahead and checked in with the medical team. Andy Robertson, although progressing well, was not quite ready to return from a shoulder injury sustained while on international duty with Scotland. Deputy left-back Kostas Tsimikas was also out.

Liverpool needed more cover. Klopp was kept well briefed about Beck’s progress in Scotland following two difficult loan spells at Portuguese club Famalicao and then Bolton Wanderers.

At Dundee, the player found a home and simpatico coaching staff. He celebrated his 21st birthday in August and played 20 times in the first half of the season, scoring a first senior goal against Hibs in November. As Klopp stressed in a press conference earlier this week, while his (temporary) return might have been earlier than planned, he had come back “a man” after six months at Dundee.

“That’s nice of him,” said a clearly touched Docherty when informed of this comment. “I never heard that. Good. It is rewarding. But a lot of the credit has to go to Owen. Whenever you come on a loan and you are a player at Liverpool, you need to really commit to it. And that’s what he did, he committed.”

But commitment is one thing, fulfilling a life’s dream is another. Liverpool wanted him back and although he was sad to leave a job half done, or so he thought, this was a huge opportunity. He recorded a heartfelt farewell message to Dundee fans on his phone, gifted Tommy Young, Dundee's Player Liaison Officer, one of his Welsh Under-21 jerseys, and headed home.

“At the time I thought I was going back to Liverpool and that I was going to stay there,” Beck says. “But things happen, people come back from injury and new opportunities open up. When I saw this one open up, after the first half of the season we all enjoyed together, it was only right to come back."

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He kept up with his old teammates, via mobile phone, social media and by watching games when the opportunity arose, including while on the Liverpool team bus. “We were travelling down to Fulham away and I watched the Hearts game,” he says. “I watched the first half of the Livingston game before training as well. I was keeping close tabs on the lads. The first half of the season meant a lot to me. Dundee were still one of my priorities. I was wishing them all the best.”

And Docherty was doing the same for Beck, not just for selfish reasons. He knew that if he played at least once for Liverpool the chances of him returning shot up. Indeed, if not Liverpool, he could only play for Dundee, whatever the covetous intentions of Rodgers, Celtic et al. But overriding this was a desire to see Beck strut his stuff in a Liverpool shirt.

“It was such a huge thing for him to make his debut,” says Docherty. “Honestly. He sent such a fantastic text about 20 minutes after the final whistle saying thanks for helping me achieve this special moment. I showed it to my wife. I was quite ..(he struggles to get the word 'emotional' out)...jeez.”

Docherty had expected him to have played before the Bournemouth game. Almost laughably, Liverpool had learned they could not play him against Arsenal in the FA Cup because of two bookings Beck had picked up against Bonnyrigg Rose and Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the…..Scottish League Cup.

He stayed on the bench in the following match, a Carabao Cup semi-final first leg victory over Fulham, when he became the subject of a social media meme after Klopp sat down beside him on the bench and began animatedly boxing his ears. “Just position talk,” according to Beck.

Lift-off occurred in Bournemouth. He has kept the shirt for framing and it’s since amassed further significance – as well as his first league appearance for Liverpool, it’s his last match under Klopp, who stunned the football world with his announcement last week that he was stepping down at the end of the season. Beck has already said his goodbyes. “There was a hug,” he says. “He’s a big hugger!”

Admirably, Beck had expressed a desire to return to Dundee if Liverpool felt adequately covered. When Robertson was sent on ahead of Beck against Norwich in the FA Cup last Sunday, Docherty shared Scotland manager Steve Clarke's joy. "It was the next morning we had a conversation with Matt," says Docherty. "He said, 'Look, I am going into the training ground, I will call you'. And he called me. And he made my day."

Newberry informed Beck he had been given the green light to return to Dundee. Remarkably in this age of cosseted football stars, with their agents and private jets, Beck hugged Klopp then got in his car and drove himself all the way up to Dundee to register in time for the following day’s match against Aberdeen.

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Girlfriend Millie and sausage dog Sushi have since followed, though they've discovered that along with his No 3 shirt, new signing Owen Dodgson has taken Beck's old flat.

He is currently viewing new accommodation and will wear the No 63 shirt this afternoon against Hearts, which isn't, it turns out, a reference to Dundee's run to the European Cup last four 61 years ago. Rather, it's the shirt he's been wearing since he graduated to the first-team squad at Liverpool, and which he seems destined to pull on again at Anfield. But just not yet.

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 

Thanks Rev great read

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