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 Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 11:12 GMT
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


It's tough at the top, but the hardest part is staying there.

I'm proud to be the Premiership's top scorer, but it didn't sink in until the other day when a friend of mine pointed it out to me.

He asked what it was like to be the top scorer in the best league in the world, and to be honest, I hadn't given it much thought until then.

It's not a case of having to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. I have always had belief in my ability to score goals at the top level.

It's up to me to make sure I give Mr Eriksson every reason to pick me

Being at the top, though, means that everyone is determined to shoot you down and knock you off - and that's fine by me.

Because being at the top also provides me with the motivation to stay there.

It's impossible to avoid what people say about you, especially when all the talk is of England caps. The important thing is how you react to what they say.

People have been saying some nice things about me during the past couple of weeks.

Alan Shearer - who I still look to as The Master - was spot on when he said I have to produce the type of consistency he has down the years.

Newcastle striker Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer, still the top dog

Mr Eriksson also said that he had noticed what I have done this season and that if I continue, then he would have to consider me.

That's just the sort of encouragement any player needs. It's a good feeling to know that you have caught the attention of the England coach.

Now it's up to me to make sure I give him every reason to pick me, and I know I'm only going to do that by continuing to score goals.

That's why I'm not getting carried away by all the talk. The publicity is nice, and you accept it as repayment for the bad patches you go through.

But all that means nothing if I don't back it up with the hard currency of goals.

Sorry to Paula Radcliffe and the Ryder Cup boys, you would not get my vote

I know that our home game with Newcastle this Saturday will invite comparisons between Alan and me - it will be billed as the Master versus the Apprentice. It's inevitable.

You can be sure I'll be doing all I can to make those comparisons stick by getting on the scoresheet.

On a different note, I tuned in with millions of others for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The British public are pretty shrewd judges in this sort of thing and I would go along with the choice of Ronaldo as Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, and Wayne Rooney as Young Sports personality of the Year. He was the only real contender in any sport.

Arsene Wenger also had to be coach of the year, but sorry to Paula Radcliffe and the Ryder Cup boys, you would not get my vote.

World heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis would have got my vote

Lennox Lewis is my choice for Sports Personality of the Year, without doubt the best boxer on the planet and known as well on the other side of the Atlantic as over here.

As for the Team of the Year, well I would have to go for Arsenal over the Ryder Cup team and Great Britain's Olympic gold medal curlers.

After all, I am a footballer and I've got to be loyal to my sport, haven't I?

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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