SAINTS must go to Newcastle tomorrow with the same game plan as last season - but execute it rather better.

Just over a year ago John Beresford wrote in this paper that Southampton's best hope of victory at St James' Park was to keep it tight for the first 20 minutes to turn the crowd against the home side.

It proved a cunning plan of Baldrick proportions and Beresford, watched in horror from the bench as his former club roared 2-0 up inside three minutes and 3-0 ahead in 12.

And they missed a penalty for good measure on the way to a 5-0 win.

But the likeable defender insists there was nothing wrong with the tactics - only the way they were applied by injury-hit Saints against a rampant Newcastle side.

For he remembers from his own time in the north-east that as well as being the team's greatest asset, the fans can also be a hinderance if things are not going well.

He said: "Those first 20 minutes are vital as we saw only too well last season. If Newcastle score early then the crowd gets right behind them and they start playing with real confidence.

"But they can quickly turn and if Saints can hold firm in that first quarter then they could do something there. I quite fancy their chances.

"Newcastle are so inconsistent. They have done really well away from home and got a great result at Leeds recently. But at home it is different.

"They have done well against sides who have sat back but with the attacking force Southampton have, they could cause Newcastle problems. And if they score first then the crowd could get on their backs and the home team will be under pressure. I really believe the side which gets the first goal will win.

"The biggest thing is if Newcastle go in front. If so, it changes big-time so Saints must keep them quiet early on. Mind you, I said the same thing last season and look what happened!

"I remember sitting there thinking it could be a Premiership record - inside 45 minutes. Every time Newcastle attacked it looked like they would score. I have never seen a team carve another up so easily.

"After the interval they eased up and then the thing for me was to get off the bench and make one last appearance there. That really meant a lot to me and I got a fantastic reception. It was just the wrong circumstances.

"Even then I knew my knee was not right but I knew I would not get another chance. It was not the best of situations to come into though.

"It will be different this time. Glenn Hoddle won't stint on any detail and will go there with a plan. They can catch Newcastle on the break although they will probably be happy with a draw.

"I think though that Newcastle will just pinch it because they are so desperate to win. Seeing Sunderland in second place really hurts them.

"They are having it rammed down their throats that Sunderland are now the top team in the north-east and it does not go down well. I think they will win - but not by five."

Last season's mauling turned out to be the chirpy full-back's final appearance for Saints before finally hanging up his boots at the start of this season.

Despite a long hard battle and several aborted come-backs, he was unable to fully recover from the cruciate ligament injury he picked up on the opening day of the 98-99 campaign.

Now he works as a presenter for Tyne Tees Television and will be at tomorrow's game in a professional capacity.

He joked: "They wanted a big star to front their Sunday soccer show but they could not find one so they got me!

"I watch Newcastle, Sunderland or Middlesbrough and then talk a load of rubbish about it next day. It is a live show on Sunday at six o'clock covering all the north-east sports so it will be a bit of a dash from the ground to get there at the final whistle."

The media work has even forced him to put his novel BallMax invention on the back burner.

While he was injured at The Dell, Beresford devoted much of his time to designing and refining a training aid which has a ball dangling on the end of a pole.

The length and height can be varied to enable players to practice heading, or shooting or other skills and it has proved encouragingly popular.

He said: "A lot of the lads laughed when they first saw it - until they tried it and found they liked it. I see it being very popular with kids right up to adult teams.

"I will be taking it over to the States in the next few months. I was hoping to do it earlier but the television thing came up.

"I have handed over the marketing of it to people who know more about it than me but the main thing for me is that it is a success rather than a money-spinner.

"I don't want it to be too expensive or to cut back on the quality just so that shops can make a big profit, so we may even go down the mail order route.

"The two careers are keeping me busy although it is still not a patch on playing."