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Sports journalist banned three times by Ferguson dies aged 81

A former regional journalist banned three times from Manchester United Football Club has died aged 81.

Tributes have been paid to sports reporter John Bean, who also once succeeded in saving Leeds United from being knocked out of the European Cup after spotting an infringement made by their opponents.

John, known as ‘Beano’, began his career on the Leek Post and Stoke-based daily The Sentinel, before going on to work for national newspapers including the Daily Sketch, Daily Mirror and Daily Express.

He mostly covered the fortunes of Manchester United for the nationals, and was banned on three separate occasions by the club’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

John Bean, second from left, at a Daily Express reunion. Credit: SJA

John Bean, second from left, at a Daily Express reunion. Credit: SJA

An obituary for the Sports Journalists’ Association by Frank Malley reads: “Beano’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson was tempestuous but full of mutual respect. If you did not fall out with the great man on an occasional basis you were not doing your job.

“It was a rich source of anecdotes and prompted John to write a book after his retirement which, sadly, was never published for fear of legal ramifications.

“I had the fortune to ring John last Friday afternoon for an impromptu catch-up, not knowing that he would pass away in the early hours of the following morning.

“He was tired and at first his voice was weak after having suffered a heart attack at Christmas, which had left him unable to walk more than 50 metres without becoming seriously fatigued. But as soon as we started chatting about old times he was back to the animated and entertaining Beano we all knew and loved. He used to call everyone ‘Matey’.”

John also made his mark across the Pennines where, in 1992, he helped save United’s rivals Leeds United from being knocked out of a European Cup tie against German club VfB Stuttgart.

After breaking the news that the Germans had fielded an ineligible player, John made the call to Leeds that led to governing body UEFA enforcing a play-off game in Barcelona, which was won by the Yorkshire side.

Former SJA chairman David Walker described John as “one of the friendliest, funniest, most charming sports journalists you could ever meet”.

David added: “He served the Stoke Sentinel, Daily Mirror and Daily Express with joy and commitment. We will miss him.”

John leaves wife Ann and four children, Richard, Kerry, Robert and Patrick, as well as seven grandchildren.