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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 10:47 GMT
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


Our last two away games have really taken us into the lions' den.

They do not come any bigger than Manchester United at Old Trafford, and Newcastle at St James' Park.

They are not just the two biggest grounds in the country but fervent cauldrons, vast temples to football that can be terrifying if you let them.

But instead of intimidation, you hope playing in front of crowds that size provide you with inspiration.

James Beattie celebrates putting Newcastle in front at St James' Park
Beattie got Saints off to a flier at Newcastle

It can be scary the first time you do it. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and little things like making mistakes in front of 50-60,000 people go through your mind.

You really notice the difference when you go out to warm up.

There is hardly anyone in the ground, you hear the music on the public address system and the announcements. It's quite a sedate atmosphere.

But the next time you come out for kick-off, it's into a wall of noise.

It's often said the crowd at places like Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester United is worth a goal to their team, but that is only in the effect it has on the home players.

But your concentration on what you're doing is so total - or it should be - that you honestly don't hear the crowd.


You would hear Chris Marsden if you were playing on the earth and he was up on the moon
James Beattie

You know it's there but something you put out of your mind.

The time you notice it most is when the crowd is turning against the home team.

Having 50,000 people on your side can be a boost, but having 50,000 against you can be a real burden.

Things were getting a bit edgy at Newcastle because we got off to a flier thanks to yours truly, and for the first 20 minutes we bossed the game.

Had we taken our chances and gone two up things might have got a bit tasty, because Newcastle fans expect their team to roll over the opposition.

But the refusal of a penalty appeal gave them something to bite on, and suddenly they were behind their team again.

When you've got 30,000 or 50,000 roaring you on, it's a powerful force. It really does lift you and propel you along.

Newcastle striker Alan Shearer in action against Southampton
Shearer: still 'quality'

With that volume of noise coming from the stands, you might think it would drown out voices on the pitch.

But you actually hear quite clearly what's said out there, and referees certainly don't appear to have much trouble!

In Chris Marsden's case, you would hear him if you were playing on the earth and he was up on the moon.

A quick word about Alan Shearer - quality.

I was a young shaver at Blackburn when he was leading the team to the Premiership title and because of that, some people draw comparisons between us.

All I can say is that if I am still leading the line and playing as well as he is at the top level when I'm 33, I will be more than happy.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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