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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 07:11 GMT
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


Every win is a good one, but our victory at Sunderland was vital for several reasons.

After losing our unbeaten home record to Liverpool and the FA Cup draw with Millwall we needed to bounce back, for ourselves as much as anyone else.

People were saying that our bubble had burst and that we would start to drop down the table.

We only ever considered the defeat against Liverpool a blip, and our Get Out of Jail Free card against Millwall was a typical Cup tie.

But it was important to prove to ourselves as much as to our supporters and the media that that was the case.

A collection of brilliant individuals does not necessarily constitute a good team

What the win at Sunderland proved is what a great spirit we have, and I think it is perhaps the most important component in a successful team.

There are no bad players in the Premiership, and by and large, there isn't a vast difference in the technical levels.

James Beattie's Southampton team-mates go into their pre-match huddle
The team that stays together, plays together

Of course, there are some outstandingly skilful players but what separates good players from the rest is the confidence to express their skills.

That extra little flash of skill is vital to unlock the tough defences at the top level but without spirit, skill on its own is not enough.

You could pack a side with 10 Diego Maradonas or Peles but they would not beat a good, well-organised team who are all pulling together.

A collection of brilliant individuals does not necessarily constitute a good team and it's the ability to play for each other that makes a team a good one.

That's where spirit comes in.

Team spirit is a tremendous asset and its importance should not be underestimated - in any sport

We don't have the biggest squad at Southampton but we are a really tight-knit group who all stick together, and that's because we're all mates.

We socialise together, we go out for evenings to the cinema or out for a meal, and that transfers itself on the the pitch.

We all pull together and cover for each other and that compensates a lot for the shortage of numbers we have compared to some Premiership clubs.

It means that guys like Francis Benali can come into the side not having played a first-team match this season and not feel out of place.

Other guys have to fill in, in positions they might not usually play, but they do it willingly for the team cause.

Team spirit is a tremendous asset and its importance should not be underestimated - in any sport.

If you could bottle or package team spirit, you would make yourself a fortune.

Southampton celebrate James Beattie's winner at Sunderland
It's even better when you can celebrate together

In a strange way, perhaps it's one of the advantages of not having a big squad.

Our gaffer Gordon Strachan has only been able to pick from about 16 or so players all season, and the sort of squad rotation that the bigger clubs can practice has never been an option for him.

One or two injuries are starting to nibble away at our already small squad.

But while we might be thin on numbers, we're big on team spirit and that can compensate an awful lot.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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See also:

22 Jan 03 | FA Cup
18 Jan 03 | Eng Prem
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