Goals don't just change football matches - they can change lives as well. But never in his wildest dreams could James Beattie guess the long-term significance of a penalty against Aston Villa on 21 October 21 2002...
The Thursday Interview: Goals don't just change football matches - they can change lives as well. But never in his wildest dreams could James Beattie guess the long-term significance of a penalty against Aston Villa on 21 October 21 2002...
Back then - only 11 months ago - the Southampton striker was at a low ebb. He had just been banned from driving for 30 months and was still looking for his first Premiership goal of the season after 10 games.
When Southampton were awarded a penalty at Villa Park though, Beattie took responsibility and his goal against Stefan Postma marked a massive change in his fortunes.
Once he had started scoring, Beattie couldn't stop. 11 goals in eight games followed; 23 in 25 Premiership games saw him end up the top English league scorer.
And after an impressive start to this season, Beattie was chosen to lead the England attack alongside Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney at a packed Old Trafford.
"It was definitely a buzz. It is what you dream of as a kid," says 25-year-old Beattie, who was only denied his first England goal by the post.
"Playing for your country in front of a full house at Old Trafford has to be one of the ultimate experiences. I have managed to do that and I am quite pleased with what happened.
"I felt it went alright, I had a couple of chances but it didn't fall for me in the box. The main thing though was to get the job done."
Beattie has the respect and enthusiasm you would expect from a player happy to be involved with England.
Goalkeeper David James - an experienced international campaigner - took the mickey when Beattie decided to be driven down to the south coast after the Liechtenstein game rather than catch the shuttle flight to Luton.
When talking about his manager, Beattie uses the polite Mr Eriksson rather than the informal Sven.
"I feel part of the England squad but I know I have to impress Mr Eriksson as much as I can. That means playing well when I get the chance for England and to keep scoring goals for Southampton.
"I have to take it one game at a time and the job on Wednesday was to get three points to take us into the game in a month's time.
"It felt good to be alongside Wayne and Michael. I thought we created chances for each other."
Beattie admits it has been a sharp rise in his career since the gloomy days of 12 months ago and he has bounced back incredibly well - and that is what makes him proudest.
"I had a few problems last year at this time they have been well documented," he says.
"I rose above that and hopefully I have come through a stronger person and better player.
"My first goal last season at Villa was a massive weight off my shoulders at the time.
"I forgot about my off-field problems and started to play football the way I know I can.
"I always knew I could score goals but a bad ankle injury two years ago stopped me in my tracks. Last season I remained fit and it ended up a very important season for me. The trick is to carry on improving, I am always looking to get better."
James Beattie was talking to Joe Bernstein