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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


By five o'clock on Saturday I had crashed out on the medical table at St Mary's Stadium.

We had just played Middlesbrough on the opening day of the Premiership season and the temperature at pitchside during the match had been just shy of 30C.

After the game - and especially on such a hot day - it is very important to rehydrate and our fitness coach Andy Spink was going around the changing room handing out fluids.

James Beattie in action against Middesbrough
Playing against Ehiogu is never easy

Every time play had stopped for an injury during the match we were given liquids.

And when a streaker ran on the pitch I was glad for the break in play and the chance to get another drink.

Although I am fully focused during a match I was able to see the funny side - and there was nothing wrong with his energy levels as he ducked and dived while the stewards chased after him.

Football has come on a lot in terms of diet and fitness.


This Saturday we're at Liverpool - another easy game then!

The new developments give a player the best possible chance to do well - and let's face it you need to be in top shape in the Premiership because you come up against so many world-class opponents.

Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu, for example, were impressive in the centre of defence for Middlesbrough on Saturday.

I knew it was going to be tough against them but I thought we played okay and if a couple of breaks had come our way we could have won the game.

And although I'd rather we had won, it was good to get the first game of the season out of the way.

Special buzz

It takes around four or five matches to really hit match fitness, but we have had a good pre-season and as the match reached its final stages we were the team pushing forward in search of a winner.

This Saturday we're at Liverpool - another easy game then!

But we got a superb result there last season - a 1-1 draw - and that gives us confidence.

Running out at Anfield, a ground with so much history and folklore, is an amazing feeling - running out there gives you a special kind of buzz.

But once the whistle is blown, I'll just be trying to do my best for the fans who have made the long journey north.

For a Premiership striker, there is virtually no tougher assignment that going up against Stephane Henchoz and Sami Hyypia.

Opening my account

They are a formidable partnership but I will be concentrating on doing the basics right and making sure I am in the right place if a chance comes my way.

If a good cross comes in my direction I must make sure that I put it away because opportunities against the top teams are usually few and far between.

Having got the first game of the season out of the way, the next thing is to open my goalscoring account.

And there are few better places to do that than Anfield.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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