James Beattie is excited by life back in the Premier League with Stoke City

20 February 2009 08:36
You could say James Beattie wasn't left with much choice about moving to Stoke in January, such were the railroading tactics of Tony Pulis.

"I was only supposed to be going down for preliminary talks", the striker recalled this week with a smile. "You know, see how I felt about the manager, what he wanted from me and what his ambitions were for this club."

It turns out, though, that Pulis wasn't too keen on hanging about.

"I get down here and the doctor's there, the physio's there", Beattie says. "Before I knew it they had me stripped down to my underpants doing a medical. The gaffer said, 'Great! I'll see you for training at 10 o'clock tomorrow and you can play against Liverpool on Saturday.' I felt like I'd been kidnapped!"

While the transfer didn't happen quite that quickly in the end, it's easy to understand Pulis's haste, what with Hull and Blackburn also interested in a player very happy at Sheffield United before the board decided to offload their highest wage earner.

Nevertheless, a fee that could rise to £3.5million still seemed fairly cheap for a very fit 30 year-old boasting a proven track record in the Premier League.

He certainly scored goals for Southampton, once racking up 23 in a season, and he also did it for a short time at Everton before his relationship with David Moyes crumbled to nothing.

But now he's back in the big time, acclimatising quickly to Stoke's uncomplicated style to score at Tottenham before marking his home debut with the only goal of the game against Manchester City.

Good to be back then. He must have missed the buzz.

"Yeah, I did having spent 10 years in the Premier League and then dropping down into the Championship. That was a massive decision to make.

"But I really enjoyed my time at United. I was sorry to leave, didn't really want to. It was more of a financial decision by the club than anything else. It was a complete surprise to me. I'd been asking for an extension to my contract and they were saying, 'Yeah, yeah, we'll sort it out in the next couple of weeks'.

"But from there it went to, 'Oh, I don't know'. Then I got wind that they'd been trying to sell me behind my back. I was a bit peeved about that. I went to see the gaffer [Kevin Blackwell] and he said it was the people upstairs. He didn't want to sell me.

"It was a shame because after my last 12 months at Everton I'd started enjoying my football again. A lot of players drop out of the Premier League and never come back but I've been complimented by a few people in football for getting my head down, for not disappearing."

He practically did at Goodison Park, though, when Moyes decided his expensive signing wasn't good enough. Beattie has his own reasons for the move failing.

"When he signed me, he'd have seen from my time at Southampton that the best way to use me was with two wingers getting crosses in. He said he wanted to do that but it never happened."

Even so, in his first full season Beattie managed to score 11 goals and when Andrew Johnson joined, the newly-formed double act initially looked promising.

"We were on fire for the first few games", Beattie remembers. "But then the manager reverted to his 4-5-1. That was me on the bench for the rest of the season.

"I just went into training every day and worked my socks off to try and get back in the team. I went to see him a lot during that season but basically he was just making excuses. He said I needed to be better at this and at that.

"During pre-season in LA, he told me he thought it was about time I moved on. I said I wasn't going anywhere. That was basically it. Our relationship over."

Beattie did eventually move on, of course. No point in staying where you're not wanted. But when he joined Stoke, one date in the calendar stood out the most.

"We've got Everton on March 15 at Goodison," he says. "I'm quite looking forward to that. But if I do score I won't celebrate because the fans were great to me there. I got some nice messages off them when I left, saying thanks, good luck and everything. I've still got a lot of friends there and I still speak to Bill Kenwright."

That Everton match can wait for now. Including the crucial visit of Portsmouth on Saturday, a succession of teams in the bottom half of the table must visit the Britannia Stadium before the season is out.

The fixtures give Stoke a realistic chance of staying up, that's if they can only maintain their impressive record in front of some of the noisiest fans in the land.

"No-one's under any illusions about the situation here but I think everyone's ready for the fight", Beattie says. "If we can get a couple of away wins then maybe our home form will see us through."

If that happens, his decision to succumb to the charms of Pulis will feel like an inspired move. Until then, he's loving every moment of his top flight return.

"I haven't taken the smile off my face yet", he says. "I'm happy to be back and I think it's showing."

Source: Telegraph