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37 of 039 Craig Beattie 28 ;Suso Santana 94L SPL H

Beattie repairing bruised reputation at Tynecastle

Graeme Macpherson
Football Writer

CRAIG BEATTIE'S career to date could best be described as a series of injuries interrupted by the occasional game of football.

The 28-year-old has made fewer than 200 appearances in nine seasons since making his senior debut for Celtic back in August 2003, endured more false starts than a 100m dash for runners of a particularly twitchy disposition.

West Bromwich Albion paid the best part of £1.5m to sign him in 2007, while Swansea City shelled out around £800,000 for his services two years later. Neither will feel they got their money's worth. There were four loan spells, too, during his time down south, but again a lack of fitness prevented him making a major impact at Preston North End, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United or Watford. There were always glimpses of what Beattie was capable of but his full potential was never realised due to the staccato nature of his involvement.

Now Beattie has returned to Scotland to try to reinvigorate his career. Kilmarnock and St Mirren both showed an interest but it was Hearts who won the race for his signature, the striker agreeing a deal until the end of the season. It seemed a curious move initially given Hearts had only weeks earlier allowed John Sutton to depart on loan to Australia but so far it has proved to be something of a shrewd acquisition.

Beattie is not only fit but thriving. He has made just three appearances so far but has been a stand-out in each of them. He came on at half-time at Ibrox for his debut – against the club that released him as a youth player – and turned the match in Hearts' favour with his power and ability to unsettle defenders. In his first start, he scored and created a goal against St Mirren, and he then scored again in Sunday's Edinburgh derby. The latter is usually enough to enter Hearts folklore regardless of how it was achieved, but Beattie's was a fine strike as he pulled Ian Black's long-range pass out of the air with an exquisite first touch before finishing adroitly. There was a finesse to the move that demonstrated there is more to Beattie than just a physical presence and a meaty shot.

Hearts have tried various figures in attack in recent seasons without finding anyone capable of carrying out the role consistently and the hope is that Beattie may be the man to finally fill that vacancy. For the player, there is a chance to reignite his career and display his undoubted talent on a regular basis.

"He's had a lot of injuries over the past couple of years but if Hearts can keep him injury-free then I think he will do really well," said Paul Hartley, one of Hearts' guests of honour at Sunday's derby and a former team-mate of Beattie's at Celtic. "He's made a big impact already so the thing is just to keep him fit. He's got international caps, he's played in the Premiership and the Championship, and he'll have learnt from every club he's been at, even if he hasn't played as much as he'd liked.

"He's actually the kind of player Hearts were needing. They've not had someone like Craig for a while, someone who's strong, a good runner with a good touch but who also works hard for the team. His goal against Hibs was top drawer. Maybe people were surprised by how good his first touch was but he's got that ability. I was impressed on Sunday by how much unselfish work he was doing, a lot of it in his own final third. I just hope he can stay fit because he's shown already what he's capable of."

There were high hopes for Beattie at Celtic but he was unable to hold down a regular first-team place under Gordon Strachan and eventually moved on. "Injuries and the players Celtic had up front at that time meant it was always going to be hard for Craig," added Hartley. "But his hunger to do well is still there. I spoke to him before the match on Sunday and he's really keen to make this work for him at Hearts."

For Scotland fans, the abiding memory of Beattie centres on a Euro 2008 qualifying match against Georgia when he came off the bench to score a late winner in Alex McLeish's first match in charge. It has been four and a half years since his last international appearance but Hartley, on the brink of leading Alloa Athletic to the third division title, believes a recall isn't out of the question. "We don't have an abundance of strikers and if Craig stays fit and is playing well then maybe Craig Levein will think about giving him another chance."

Taken from the Scotsman

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