Sheffield United 1, West Bromwich 0: Beattie gives cutting edge to sharpen Robson's Blades

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The Independent Football

Perhaps it is the red-and-white stripes. James Beattie arrived at Everton in early 2005 as an England striker approaching the prime of his career, having scored 68 times in 161 league appearances for Southampton.

He left Merseyside in the summer after two-and-a-half years of frustration and was forced to drop down to the Championship for the guarantee of regular first-team football.

At £4m, he is the most expensive forward in this league but a return of two goals in his first three games for Sheffield United suggests that the 29-year-old's best days may yet lie ahead of him. He already looks more comfortable in his new team's colours than he ever did in Everton blue.

On Saturday it was his first-half header, intelligently and precisely headed from 15 yards into the far corner, that proved the difference between two sides among the favourites to be promoted from the Championship.

"I think James can score 20 or even 25 goals this season," said Bryan Robson, the United manager. "And it's not just about his goals but the way he leads the line and brings others into play. At Everton, David Moyes likes to play with that 4-5-1 formation and I don't think that suits James."

Beattie's goal gave Robson his first league victory as United manager, and a first taste of Championship success since last September, when his then West Bromwich Albion side defeated Preston. Within 10 days, Robson had been sacked, after the Albion board decided he was not the man to lead them back into the Premier League.

Now under the stewardship of Tony Mowbray, West Bromwich look like a side in transition, seeking to cope with the loss of their two best players, Diomansy Kamara and Jason Koumas, and the imminent departure of a third in Curtis Davies.

Robson insisted afterwards that he is concentrating entirely on his new club, rather than the one that has played such a role in his footballing life since making his league debut for West Brom back in 1975.

"It's just three points whether it's against West Brom or anyone else," he insisted. "There are no hard feelings. I'm happy being at this club now."

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