Press article:

Break the bank - 01/06/2004

Break the bank
Beattie - the closest player to Shearer's style

John Beresford insists Newcastle United should "break the bank" to land his former Southampton team-mate James Beattie. Beresford, who spent three-and-a-half years with the Saints after leaving St James' Park in 1998, saw Beattie's potential when he arrived at The Dell from Blackburn Rovers, having failed to break through at Ewood Park. Beresford believes Beattie is as close to the ideal replacement for skipper Alan Shearer, who retires after next season, as it is possible to get.

Southampton manager Paul Sturrock yesterday insisted that the Saints are not a selling club any longer, though he admitted that "every footballer has his price". And with Alan Smith having moved to Old Trafford for stlg7m, Beattie will be valued at around the stlg5m mark by Southampton.

Sir Bobby Robson, weighing up a bid for Beattie, ideally needs to move on one or two players this summer to strengthen his hand in the transfer market, and the Magpies are still waiting on an improved offer from Portsmouth for Lomana LuaLua.

Beattie, meanwhile, has hinted he is ready to leave St Mary's Stadium after almost six years at the south coast club. Beattie said: "I am more than happy at Southampton but if a big offer came in for me from them (Newcastle) - or anyone - I would have to have a talk to the chairman."

TV pundit and Pink columnist Beresford says Beattie, at 26 the same age that Alan Shearer was when he joined United in 1996, has worked hard on his game to get as close to Newcastle's No 9 as possible. He said: "I remember very well when James Beattie arrived at Southampton from Blackburn, where he'd only made a handful of appearances. "What we saw was a very raw talent, but since then he's worked and worked on his touch. He's always had an unbelievable leap - his strength is in the air - but now his touch has improved to go with that aerial ability. "James is also quicker than people give him credit for once he gets into his stride. I'd fancy him against a few people. "He's very leggy and suits the ball over the top, and the biggest thing we all noticed at the time was just how hard James can lash a football. That's just one of the ways he's very like Alan Shearer - you give him a chance and he'll go for it.  "James is learning week in, week out and I believe Newcastle United should break the bank to sign him in the summer. "When Alan's injured or needs a rest Newcastle become a poorer team - they have not got the same feel. "He is the one player they struggle to replace and James would have been ideal. "Off the pitch he is a smashing lad. He is confident and loud and good to have around. He is going to go a long way in the game - he just needs to improve when the ball is fed to him."


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