'Excitement Got The Better Of Me': Beattie Recalls St Mary's Strike

by Paul McNamara

James Beattie scored 13 Premier League goals for Everton. He talks with some relish today about the first one, the passing of time serving to liberate him from the moral obligation which compelled the striker to suppress his glee after he opened his Toffees account.

Beattie was a Club-record £6million signing in January 2005, bought by David Moyes with Everton jostling for a top-four berth and requiring an infusion of energy and thrust down the home straight.

He scored on only his second start at Goodison Park – the second goal in a 3-0 FA Cup fourth-round victory over Sunderland.

But when Everton went to Southampton on 6 February, Beattie was still waiting to break his Premier League duck for his new team.

Back on familiar turf at St Mary’s Stadium, playing against the side he had left one month earlier after six-and-a-half prolific years, Beattie needed precisely four minutes to remind Saints fans what they were missing.

He recalls the goal with high-definition clarity, removing the lid from those bubbling emotions he smothered on the day, allowing his pride and excitement to come to the surface.

“It was about four minutes in,” Beattie tells evertonfc.com. “Faddy (James McFadden) took a long throw on the right-hand side.

“Tim Cahill came flying in – like he always did  – the keeper parried it and I just smashed it in.

“I remember feeling elated, having scored. Then… I didn’t celebrate too much, did I? I started, then I subdued it a little bit out of respect for the Southampton supporters.

“I have always loved scoring goals! It got the better of me for about a second, then I remembered where I was! But I was still delighted to score for my new club.

“I had the fond memories of the previous six-and-a-half years with Southampton. It worked out quite well; I got a little ‘cello’ in there, then took it easy!”

Video footage of Beattie’s strike conclusively stands up his account.

There indeed is Scottish winger McFadden slinging in a mighty, looping throw from the right.

Cahill, beautifully timing a run into the box for the umpteenth time in his Everton career, meeting the ball flush on his forehead and forcing goalkeeper Paul Smith to claw it away to his left.

And Beattie, instinctively positioned in the perfect spot and on high alert, adjusting his body and rifling a volley into the roof of the net.

The Southampton team of that day was fighting tooth and nail for its mere Premier League survival.

Beattie, though, had been prepared to stick around and try to help the south coast club out of the mire, albeit in hindsight he acknowledges it was the “right time” to move on.

He had won five England caps, all of them in 2003, and when Harry Redknapp replaced Steve Wigley in the Saints hotseat in December 2004, the new manager, compelled to act fast, decided to shake up his floundering squad.

“When Harry came in, he said to me, ‘you are my only saleable asset and I need to get three or four players in, I haven’t got any money’,” says Beattie, now assistant to Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk.

“It was not a case of me jumping ship.

“Having experience on the other side of the fence now, I understand when a manager says it is time to go.”

Everton’s early-2005 visit to Southampton came at a critical juncture in the season. The Toffees had won 12 and drawn four of their opening 19 matches.

But after toppling Manchester City on Boxing Day, Moyes’ side took only seven points from their following six games.

Saints, by contrast, were stirring into life after a dreadful start to the campaign. A fortnight prior to the Blues' visit, they had swatted aside Liverpool 2-0.

And after Beattie had lashed Everton in front, Redknapp’s side responded with a fury, a tidal wave of attacks cascading down on the away team's goal.

When the game entered its fourth minute of stoppage time, Southampton’s incessant pressure had yielded two goals: Peter Crouch directing home Rory Delap’s long throw on 36 minutes, and Henri Camara dovetailing cutely with David Prutton before deftly finishing past Nigel Martyn 10 minutes after half-time.

Crouch, though, turned villain when, seconds from the final whistle, he needlessly crossed the ball straight into Martyn’s gloves.

Duncan Ferguson flicked on the goalkeeper’s subsequent punt downfield and Beattie’s strike partner, Marcus Bent, dramatically thrashed the ball beyond the helpless Smith to spark absolute pandemonium among a horde of travelling Evertonians.

The players were equally jubilant. And Beattie, on this occasion, did away with the niceties.

“I did not hold back on my celebrations then,” says Beattie. “We were under the cosh for large parts of the game.

“When Marcus scored in the 94th-minute, wow – it is one of my favourite pictures. I am on Marcus’s back (pictured above) and he is going up to the support that was down there.

“Sometimes, you just cannot control that type of feeling.

“I did not think about anything else. I was only thinking about getting a good result for Everton at that point.

“You are playing for the colours you are wearing. Whatever has gone on, or whatever will happen in the future, the tension and excitement is that high when you score an equaliser in the 94th minute… anybody who can control that is probably not human.”

Everton would ultimately cling on to fourth spot, finishing three points ahead of both Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers.

For Southampton’s part, they clambered to their feet after being floored by Bent, dusted themselves down and did not lose any of their next four matches.

The damage, though, had been done and Redknapp's men failed in their escape bid by a measly two points. In short, without Bent’s intervention, they would have retained their top-flight status.

“I knew a lot of people at Southampton, so their relegation was always going to be a sad moment for me,” says Beattie, who spent two-and-a-half years at Goodison Park, before he was sold to Sheffield United in August 2007.

“My first priority was working hard for Everton and making sure we had the best season we could. And, on a personal level, to play to the best of my ability.

“But it was a terrible moment when Southampton went down.

“If you play somewhere for six-and-a-half years, of course you will have feelings for that club. It is a club I hold dear to my heart, even now, and I still have a really good relationship with the fans.

“It was disappointing for them. They went on their journey, but now they are back and established in the Premier League, which I am happy about.”

Beattie’s focus this weekend will be on Middlesbrough’s home encounter with Derby County – the two teams are level on points in the Championship, with a superior goal difference putting ‘Boro on the right side of the play-off divide.

Come Sunday, though, he will be tuning in to watch two of his former teams do battle down on his old St Mary's stomping ground.

“I have fond memories from all of the clubs I played for,” says Beattie.

“You do have ups and downs, but there are people working at those clubs you have forged relationships with – and you grow to love them.

“I care about other people’s jobs and how their lives are going. It is important to me, that.”

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