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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


I was desperately sorry to hear that Gordon Watson has suffered another broken leg.

He must be one of the unluckiest players in football.

Gordon battled back from a horrific broken leg which might have finished many players' careers, but he showed a lot of bottle and desire in getting himself back.


Last season I dislocated my ankle and I don't think I have ever been so frustrated in my life

Although he now plays for Hartlepool he still lives down on the South Coast and he trains with us at Southampton during the week, travelling up to the north-east for games.

He trained with us last week, and was only saying before he went how much he was looking forward to the derby match against Darlington.

The fact that he flies up to the north-east for every home game shows how much he loves playing the game.

And it's that as much as anything, which drives you on to recover and get back to playing.

I know from experience that there's nothing worse than being injured.

Last season I dislocated my ankle and I don't think I have ever been so frustrated in my life.

Hartlepool striker Gordon Watson
Gordon Watson has been unlucky with injuries

I did it against Manchester United in February, and I was out for six weeks.

There's never a good time to have an injury, and mine came when I was in the middle of a good goalscoring trot.

Of course, you feel duty bound to go along and support your team-mates, but I hated sitting in the stands, watching, knowing there was nothing I could do to affect what was happening out on the pitch.

As professional footballers, we're lucky that we have the very best treatment, the sort that isn't always available to guys that play in local football up and down the country.

Players are part of a football club's assets, and as such we're covered by insurance.

A player is no use to a club stuck in the stands so it's obviously in their interest to make sure we return to action as quickly as possible.

But every injury has a legacy. Although I returned after six weeks last season I was never really 100% fit.

One of the problems was that I kept getting calf strains because I was over-compensating

Southampton goalkeeper Paul Jones
Who would be a goalkeeper?

I still have problems with the ankle now, and have to have regular manipulation on it.

We've been in for double training sessions this week, but it's not to punish us.

Our last two games only show what a daft game football is sometimes.

Against Everton we didn't play well, and probably didn't deserve to win. But you have to take wins like that when they're on offer because along comes a game like the one at West Brom.

We did more than enough to win but failed to come away with even one point.

The old saying is that you have to mad to be a goalkeeper, but another requirement is skin thicker than a rhinoceros hide.

When goalkeepers make an error it's inevitably a costly one, resulting in a goal, as Paul Jones discovered.

His error should have been academic. We had enough chances to have won the game and been home and hosed.

Outfield players have the luxury of being able to make errors which aren't so starkly exposed as goalkeepers.

It hasn't been a good week for goalkeepers, what with Peter Enckelman's ricket for Villa, and Kelvin Davis making a similar one for Wimbledon.

Supporters and media are quick to highlight errors and point the fingers at individuals, but this doesn't tend to happen within the confines of a dressing room.

Arsenal striker Thierry Henry
It's great when training ground routines come off during the game

The team has a collective responsibility. We're happy enough to take the credit when things are going well, so it's only right that we all take collective blame when they don't, and there was no finger-pointing in Jonah's directon.

The collective thing is part of the reason we've had extra training this week.

Anybody who saw Arsenal's first goal against Charlton couldn't fail to be impressed by the way that Thierry Henry swept on to Dennis Bergkamp's pass.

It was all so smooth, especially the way Dennis just seemed to play the ball blindly. But these things don't happen by accident.

A goal like that is the result of long hours on the training ground. Dennis would have pulled that ball back into space, confident in the knowledge that there would be an Arsenal shirt running into it.

You work on situations like that in training, the strikers creating space with runs that others will fill behind them.

At the same time, defenders work on how to stop that sort of thing.

It takes lots of practice to the point where it's almost instinctive.

Let's hope it pays off for us.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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