I knew I'd be back on top, says Beattie as Stoke striker returns to Everton

13 March 2009 10:04
The royal blue Lamborghini is by no means the only lasting reminder of Everton

for James Beattie. There are the friendships with the people he left behind at Goodison Park and his special relationship with chairman Bill Kenwright.

Then there is the frustration he still feels over 'a year in the wilderness' and the sudden exit that followed an all-too-brief exchange with manager David Moyes.

It occurred in the lobby of the Manhattan Beach Hotel in Los Angeles during Everton's pre-season tour of America in 2007.

Beattie recalls: 'He said he thought it was about time I moved on. I told him I wasn't going anywhere. He said, 'We'll see', and that was it. It was a big blow but it's all about how you come back, isn't it?'

Point to prove: James Beattie lines up for Stoke at Everton today

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Beattie's friends believe Moyes began to have doubts about his record £6million signing as early as the striker's fifth League game for the club when he was shown the only red card of his career and served his only suspension for butting the then Chelsea defender William Gallas.

Could they be right?

'Probably,' says Beattie, ruefully. 'I just think it started a snowball effect in his head. I really did question myself when I left but, with what's happened since, I know it wasn't me. I've sorted it out in my own head that it wasn't my fault.'

He was Everton's top scorer in his first full season before Moyes broke the club's transfer record again, paying £8.6m to sign Andy Johnson as the spearhead for his favoured 4-5-1 formation and banishing Beattie to the bench.

Welcome back: Beattie poses with Moyes after becoming Everton's record signing

He dropped down to the Championship where he continued to score regularly for Sheffield United and returns to Goodison for the first time today with five goals in seven games as a Stoke

player and no regrets.

'Leaving was hard to take but I'll say this: there has never been a second that I didn't think I was a Premier League footballer,' insists Beattie, 31.

'For the first 18 months I absolutely loved it at Everton. I made some really good friends who I'm still in touch with now, not just the players but people around the club and I still speak to Bill Kenwright on a regular basis.

'We've got quite a special relationship. I phone him for advice or just to see how he's doing. I think he's a top guy and he wanted me to be the next superstar at Everton, even though it didn't quite work out.

'I was forced into a bit of a corner and I had a decision to make. Someone of the stature of Bryan Robson coming round to my house, talking to me as a person, treating me with respect and saying he wanted me to play for Sheffield United was nice to hear having spent 12 months in the wilderness.

'I didn't really want to go. I wanted to stay and prove myself like I've done several times in my career. It was a massive decision and I spoke to a lot of people in football. I've since had the same people congratulate me on the way I've come back because a lot of players drop out of the top flight and you never see them again.'

It is clear Beattie gets a kick out of proving his doubters wrong, just as he did with his former Southampton manager Glenn Hoddle.

'He once told me I'd never be a Premier League striker. He tried to sell me to Crystal Palace but I dug my heels in and said I wouldn't go. I went on and scored 10 in 10.

'He went to Tottenham

and I remember going to White Hart Lane and beating them 3-1. I scored two and he got sacked.'

Revenge: Beattie celebrates scoring against Hoddle's Spurs

There is no doubting Beattie's confidence but he believes it comes from a strength of character forged during endless hours in the swimming pool as a youngster.

His father Michael or mother Kathleen would get up with James at five o'clock in the morning and drive him from the family home in Blackburn to Wigan, where they would coach him for two hours. A day at school was followed by another punishing couple of hours in the pool.

'The only thing I was training against was the clock and you're never going to beat the clock,' he says. 'To train on your own and push yourself to be better, that's where I get the strength of character from.'

Football took second place as Beattie became the second-fastest 100metre freestyle swimmer in the country, competing against the likes of Athens Olympic bronze medallist Stephen Parry.

He would pound up and down the pool for up to 50 miles a week, pushing himself so hard that the cartilage in his shoulder began to wear away. At the age of 14, he was warned by a specialist that it was in danger of becoming arthritic within 10 years.

'The surgeon explained it to me and my dad. We came to a decision that I'd concentrate on my school work because that's where all my dad's efforts were going and I didn't want to let him down.'

Beattie's father had re-mortgaged the family home to send him to grammar school in Blackburn and was working overtime as a truck driver. Sometimes he would collect young James from school, tuck him up in the back of the cab and take him all over the country, often to watch Blackburn Rovers play.

Beattie was good as his word, passing nine GCSEs. With grade As in physics, chemistry, biology and maths he had ambitions to be a surgeon until he was given the chance to join the team he supported as a boy.

'I'd stand there at Ewood, beanie hat and scarf, jumping up and down for three hours at the Blackburn

End,' he says. 'I'd fill the pockets of my jacket with shredded paper to throw in the air. I used to spend my Friday night ripping up papers.

'Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be a footballer. But then I was on schoolboy forms and I was there with my heroes, working with them, cleaning their boots. I did Graeme Le Saux's and Tim Sherwood's.

'Jack Walker came in and he brought Kenny Dalglish and Alan Shearer to the club. I wanted to clean Shearer's boots but my mate wouldn't let me near them.'

Beattie might have sold the yacht he used to own with Southampton team-mate David Howells but the trappings of success are still there. The Cheshire home where he lives with his wife Sarah and their two-and-a-half-year-old son James, the holidays he can afford to buy his dad by way of thanks for the sacrifices he made and, of course, the Lamborghini.

It just so happened that Everton blue was his favourite colour, but red and white stripes seem to suit Beattie better.

He played in an FA Cup final and earned his five England caps while at Southampton. Beattie was also a success in the red and white of Sheffield United and is now determined to make sure Stoke stay in the Premier League.

'Loads of people have written me off and said I'm no good. But I don't think I' ve got to prove anything to anybody.'  STOKE v Everton: Pulis given boost ahead of Toffees clash

Millwall v West Ham, Brighton v Palace, Aberdeen v Rangers - and more: Sportsmail's guide to illogical footballing rivalries

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Source: Daily_Mail