Craig Beattie believes Scots can prosper in Georgia

David Siradze scored the second Georgian goal in October 2007 in Tbilisi
David Siradze scored the second Georgian goal in October 2007 in Tbilisi
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Craig Beattie’s career is heavily defined by a goal for Scotland against Georgia and a Scottish Cup win with Hearts.

However, the striker has amassed 11 winner’s medals in total and is thoroughly satisfied with his lot. Now 31 and playing part-time with Stirling Albion, he returns to the spotlight on weeks like this. His winner against the Georgians at Hampden in March 2007 seems ingrained in people’s thoughts.

Beattie had scored against Georgia in March that year at Hampden

Beattie had scored against Georgia in March that year at Hampden

“You get a few folk mentioning it,” he says. “It was a long time ago and it’s still good to be held in high regard for that goal. It was important at the time but Scotland didn’t even qualify. It was still a big highlight in my career.”

He earned seven caps in total, mostly in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign which ended with defeat by Italy at Hampden in the final match. One appearance came in the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, where Scotland play on Friday evening.

Beattie came off the bench in an ultimately costly 2-0 defeat there under Alex McLeish in October 2007. He remembers the venue, the climate and the stuffy nature of the Georgians as a team. Scotland have nothing to fear this time and Beattie suspects they may actually thrive if Georgia go on the attack.

“A lot of these [eastern European] nations are much of the same – well organised, tactically very aware, physical and they know how to play and manage the game,” he points out. “Scotland are going well but teams will also think they can beat us. Because we’ve not qualified for major tournaments and we’re obviously not one of the European giants, teams will always fancy themselves.

“Georgia being at home might play into our hands with the pace we’ve got out wide and up front. They could come and have a go, which could suit us on the counter-attack.

“Having played in those areas of the park, and had a bit of pace when I was young, you need players to find you. There’s no point having pace and being willing to run if the ball isn’t being delivered. What Gordon Strachan’s got is quality players who can deliver a ball, like Matt Ritchie, James Morrison, Darren Fletcher, Shaun Maloney.”

A player of Beattie’s ability surely merited more than seven Scotland caps. Niggling injuries and moving clubs regularly didn’t help his case, but it is refreshing to hear the player’s gratitude for what football has given him. Named on his CV are institutions like Celtic, West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United and Swansea City. Alongside them are Barnet, Ayr United and the tiny Maltese club Zebbug Rangers. “I had a really good time at Dundee. I won my 11th winner’s medal there [Championship title] and I don’t think that’s a bad haul,” he says. “I just think of myself as a normal lad who got into football as a young kid and I’ve got 11 winner’s medals and counting. I’ve had a great ride. It’s not always going to be at the top level, where I spent a long part of my career. You get little downturns but to still be competitive and still have the hunger and desire is the main thing for me.

“I’ve played games for Stirling Albion this season and I’ve managed to get on the scoresheet. I’m enjoying it. At this stage in your career, you’d be crazy if you didn’t. Work hard, get your head down and enjoy what it is because it doesn’t last for ever. The game evolves and unfortunately it leaves you behind at some point.”

He isn’t quite ready to be left completely behind. Whenever Beattie does kick his last ball, a three-month spell at Tynecastle in 2012 will rank prominently in his list of achievements.

“Hearts were going through a very difficult spell at the time. It was no secret about the finances and not getting paid,” he recalls. “When I went in, I tried to give the place a wee boost and then we went on a wee run. Before you know it, we’ve won the Edinburgh derby, we’re in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup, we beat Celtic and then we’re in the final beating Hibs 5-1.

“The results really picked up in such a short space of time, it was really a massive point in my career. I absolutely loved it there.” He didn’t extend his short-term contract because the club’s financial situation at the time simply wouldn’t allow it.

“I don’t know if I could’ve bettered what I’d already done if I’d stayed on. It was just a whirlwind that ended up with a team going down in the history books. Without saying too much and over-stepping the mark, I don’t know if there was an opportunity to stay on. That wasn’t down to myself or performances, there were other matters off the park which had to get sorted. I had a great time at Hearts, loved the club and loved the people there. I’m never shy of an invite to go back and watch games from John Robertson and other people there. It really is a great club.”

There aren’t many free Saturdays to accept Robbo’s invites due to commitments with Stirling Albion. Beattie uses his experience to manage his fitness and any niggles but still puts his heart and soul into each training session. He also has one eye on management.

“I’m just doing the right things at the right time, which comes with experience. A phrase I like to use is ‘the experience you get just after you needed it’. As you get older, you learn more and if you take it on board you get on top of things. Listen, the fitness thing isn’t a problem. The young lads won’t see me off yet,” he laughs.

“I started my coaching badges a couple of years ago and it’s something I’m looking to get into. I’ve worked with some incredible managers – Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan, Brendan Rodgers and eventually I want to use the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained from those guys. That’s in my mind further down the line.”