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Accrington Stanley shocked the Football League last week by capturing the signature of former Blackburn Rovers and England striker James Beattie.

The veteran striker has signed a player-coach contract until January and will join former Blackburn Rovers teammate Leam Richardson, who was newly appointed manager last month, at the Fraser Eagle Ground.

Born and bred in Lancashire Beattie, now aged 34, has donned the shirt of numerous clubs from all over the United Kingdom, from Southampton to Rangers and Sheffield United to Stoke City it is fair to say Beattie has been around the block once or twice.

As a youngster Beattie was tipped to be one of Britain’s best swimmers but following a cruel injury which led to him damaging the cartilage tissue on his shoulder, he turned his attention to football and it did not take long for him to be snapped up by Blackburn Rovers in 1995.

After three hard years the striker failed to make an impact at the Premier League Champions which resulted in the Lancashire lad swapping the blue and white halves of Blackburn for the red and white stripes of Southampton, as Beattie was sold for £1 million.

It was here where James would go on to play his best football scoring 68 goals in 204 appearances, which proved enough to earn the Saints striker a surprise call up to the England squad in 2003. Arguably the striker’s most successful year, an England call up followed by an FA Cup Final appearance which the Saints lost 1-0 to Arsenal. Despite not scoring on his England debut, Beattie went on to make four more appearances under Sven-Goran Eriksson before his prolific goal scoring form started to dwindle.

In 2005 Beattie moved back up North this time to Everton for a fee of £6 million. But the striker failed to find his feet on Merseyside; harsh injuries combined with suspensions resulted in his Toffee’s career lasting just two years before moving to Sheffield United for £4 million.

Following two frustrating seasons at Goodison Park Beattie eventually re-found his goal scoring form netting 34 goals in just 62 appearances averaging a goal every other game, the best form of his life. But his Blades career did not last long as the Yorkshire club found themselves in financial turmoil resulting in Beattie being sold again.

In 2009 Beattie returned to the Premier League with Stoke City but the Lancastrian found it difficult emulating his goal scoring form which had impressed Tony Pulis. The move to Stoke was arguably the start of Beattie’s decline. Scoring just 9 goals in 38 appearances Beattie was soon surplus to requirements and found himself yet again on his way to another club, this time it was Scottish giants Rangers.

Due to injuries Beattie found it difficult cementing his place in the starting 11 and therefore only stepped on to the field of play five times wearing a Rangers shirt. His stay in Scotland only lasted a year before returning to Sheffield United in 2011.

Fitness and injuries restricted Beattie to just 18 appearances last season and with no goals to celebrate the strikers best days are certainly behind him.

But now at Stanley Beattie has a wealth of experience which could prove vital for Richardson and his men as they push for a play-off spot. The once prolific goal scorer has not scored in three years but his presence and vision could still cause many defenders problems especially in League 2. Off the field James will provide the youthful team with the experience and guidance they lack.

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