IN PRO­FILE

Chris Dunlavy looks at the ca­reer of Ac­cring­ton boss James Beat­tie

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

WHEN Alan Irvine pulled up at James Beat­tie’s house in the sum­mer of 1993, he ex­pected to be wel­comed with open arms.

Then a coach at Black­burn’s school of ex­cel­lence, the Scot had come to of­fer the 15-year-old a trainee­ship at Ewood Park.

“I’d just re­cently re­tired and I was mix­ing coach­ing at Black­burn with work at a lo­cal pri­vate school,” said Irvine, who has since man­aged Pre­ston and Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

“The head of sports there came up to me one day and said: ‘You need to have a look at this lad we’ve got’.

“It was James, who looked like a young Alan Shearer at the time. He was big, strong for his age and very pow­er­ful, es­pe­cially down the right hand side. And most im­por­tantly, he al­ways scored goals.”

Un­for­tu­nately, when it came to sign­ing the tal­ented young­ster up per­ma­nently, Irvine hadn’t reck­oned on Beat­tie’s aca­demic tal­ents.

“I talked to his dad about him leav­ing school,” re­calls Irvine. “And he said: ‘No – James is go­ing to be a sur­geon’. That was the level of his aca­demic abil­ity.”

Beat­tie – who also swam for Eng­land un­til a shoul­der in­jury forced him to stop – did in­deed stay on at school, fin­ish­ing up with nine GCSEs, in­clud­ing As in physics, chem­istry, bi­ol­ogy and maths. But, in the end, the lure of dis­sect­ing de­fences was more en­tic­ing that slic­ing up bod­ies.

He signed a per­ma­nent con­tract in March 1995, just a month be­fore Black­burn se­cured their sole Pre­mier League ti­tle. And there he learned at the heels of Shearer, a man he still re­gards as “the Mas­ter”.

But with such stiff com­pe­ti­tion chances were al­ways slim and in 1998 Beat­tie joined Southamp­ton as a makeweight in the £7m deal that took Kevin Davies to Rovers.

Though he “nearly cried” upon hear­ing the news, it was to prove the mak­ing of the young striker. Again there was a fine men­tor in Matt Le Tissier, who struck up a friend­ship with Beat­tie and im­pressed on him the im­por­tance of an un­wa­ver­ing penalty rou­tine.

Le Tissier missed just one of his 49 ca­reer penal­ties; Beat­tie missed one in 36. “I just imag­ine I’m tak­ing them against my son James in the back gar­den,” he said.

He also got to work with man­agers who be­lieved in him. First Dave Jones and then Gor­don Strachan.

“Gor­don was the best man­ager I ever worked for,” said Beat­tie. “He al­ways knew where the line was. He could have a laugh in train­ing but he was bril­liant at get­ting the best out of people.”

Af­ter a slow start, Beat­tie had his best sea­son at Saints in 2002- 03, strik­ing up a part­ner­ship with Brett Ormerod and netting 23 goals, be­hind only Ruud Van Nis­tel­rooy and Thierry Henry in the Pre­mier League goal charts.

He also won the first of five Eng­land caps, but was not selected for Euro 2004 and would never make the na­tional team again.

Partly that was down to the fail­ure of a £6m move to Ever­ton in 2005. Though ap­pre­ci­ated for his ef­fort and a hit in the dress­ing room, he left two years later hav­ing scored just 13 goals in 76 league games. “Ev­ery­one loved him as a lad,” said Irvine. “People some­times had this im­age of him as big­time Char­lie but he wasn’t at all. He worked very hard. But I think be­ing the club’s record sign­ing maybe weighed on him.”

From there he dropped into the Cham­pi­onship, scor­ing an im­pres­sive 34 goals in 62 league games for Sh­effield United be­fore a £3.5m switch to Stoke in 2009. His stay ended – very pub­licly – af­ter a punch up with boss Tony Pulis. And af­ter bar­ren stops at Rangers and Sh­effield United, Beat­tie pitched up at Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley in 2012.

Now he is man­ager, and a man once paid £35,000 a week is paid £50,000 a year to keep the Foot­ball’s League’s small­est club out of the Con­fer­ence.

And far from feel­ing out of his depth, Beat­tie ap­pears to be relishing the chal­lenge – clean­ing toi­lets, paint­ing dress­ing rooms and, ear­lier this year, per­son­ally pay­ing the club’s five-fig­ure tax bill.

“He’s a good man­ager and a good bloke to have at the club,” said Stan­ley skip­per Luke Joyce. “He’s ad­justed to man­age­ment fan­tas­ti­cally well and he’s been great with us, es­pe­cially with the bad run we had at the start of the sea­son.

“He’s not lost faith with us and he’s kept us pos­i­tive, even on the back of some dis­ap­point­ing de­feats and per­for­mances. He’s great to have around.”

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