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 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 07:40 GMT
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


Summer seems a long way off, but it's all the hard work you put in back then that pays off now as the fixtures come thick and fast.

The big reservoir of fitness and stamina you build up in pre-season is what gets you through a hectic spell of games.

At times like this, rest is more important than training.

To be honest, I don't think I have ever started a match what I would call 100% fit

We were given Sunday off and the training we do in between matches is very light and gentle stuff, designed more to make sure you don't stiffen up and to gently take any knots out of your muscles.

Basically, you keep yourself fit by playing matches - and there are plenty of those at the moment, with the promise of more to come!

When you are playing this number of games in such a short space of time, your fitness is as much a mental thing as anything.

It's often a question of how much a player wants to play, and if you love playing, you'll shrug off and ignore a lot of things.

To be honest, I don't think I have ever started a match where I would say that I was 100% fit.

James Beattie celebrates his goal against Sunderland
A goal at any time is nice

There's always something to just make you dip below that 100% level. It might be a knock in training, a twinge or a cut. Something minor, but just enough to deny you a completely untarnished level of fitness.

We've had a good Christmas so far and if anybody had offered us five points from three games, including draws from trips to Leeds and Chelsea beforehand, we would have bitten their hands off.

The fact that we scored our equaliser at Leeds and the winner over Sunderland late in the game is a testament to our fitness which enables us to keep going not only for 90 minutes, but beyond.

There are some big dates coming up, both on and off the pitch.

I personally don't think there will be too many big money deals done

There's the third round of the FA Cup, and we've got a really tough game against Spurs.

But we're at home and our form at St Mary's this season means we fancy our chances against anyone on our patch.

We are due a good cup run and given our form at the moment, there's no reason why we can't have one this season.

Southampton manager Gordon Strachan
The Gaffer is a pretty demanding coach

The other big date coming up is the opening of the transfer window, and it will be interesting to see which clubs will be dabbling in the market.

Players are usually among the last to know if a new face is likely to turn up in the dressing room.

I personally don't think there will be too many big money deals done - apart from the 20m package for me and Wayne Bridge. Only joking, Gaffer!!!

The clubs most in need of signing players would appear to be those at the top and bottom ends of the table, but I wonder how much money there is in the game at the moment.

Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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