Football: Seaman on a mission to prevent Zola repeating himself

Wembley absentee sets his focus on little feet

If England are to deny Gianfranco Zola in Rome tonight they will need another dominating performance from David Seaman.

Ian Ridley found the England goalkeeper ready to go to work.

David Seaman is hoping that the week ends more successfully than it began. "He beat me 5-0," England's goalkeeper lamented after a fishing trip with Paul Gascoigne. Tonight the aim is the opposite; to keep that figure as slippery as any trout, Gianfranco Zola, from finding the net.

It becomes increasingly difficult to second-guess the Englan coach, Glenn Hoddle, and predict accurately an England team these days but it is usually a pretty safe bet that Seaman's name will be the first on the list, literally and metaphorically.

As seen in the penalty saves of Euro 96, against Scotland and Spain - since when he has conceded only two goals in eight games under Hoddle - his air of calm reassurance is crucial to England. "If the young lads are getting nervous, I'll have a quiet word with them," he says, accepting that he is among the team's elder statesmen. His imposing presence seems also a deterrent to strikers.

It is with a little fellow that he and England are most concerned tonight, however. "You look at various strikers just to see if they do anything different. At set-pieces you can usually see, but sometimes it's hard to tell who's actually shooting when it's in the game. You are supposed to be watching the ball, you know.

"But I know Zola does pose quite a few problems, especially at free-kicks. He's crafty. He's got such tiny feet and can make the ball do a lot of things with hardly any backlift." Seaman recently reacquainted himself with it all at first hand, when Zola scored for Chelsea against Arsenal, though the goal owed most to Mark Hughes's teasing cross.

Seaman was absent with a cartilage injury when Zola's shot deflected off Sol Campbell last February at Wembley, Ian Walker then the victim. "I was stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 listening on the radio coming back from the specialist," Seaman recalls, though he feels as vengeful as any participant that night. "There is nothing more we would like to do than beat them after what they did at Wembley," he says.

It will, he knows, be an intense experience. "I don't know if you can enjoy it. Maybe afterwards when you get the right result. It's work and there is a lot of pressure but we know what's coming, what to expect." He is, after all, a veteran of '93 and Rotterdam, almost shuddering at the memory. "That was different. It was sudden death," he says. "If we do get beaten this time at least we have another chance."

Seaman himself does not expect as physical a test as the other England players. "It is different with goalkeepers because the ref watches and as soon as anyone touches us they give a free-kick. In other parts of the field I expect there will be a lot of man-for-man marking. Man-for- man wrestling, really."

What does concern him are the Olympic Stadium floodlights. "Lights make a massive difference to you. Even Highbury is a totally different place at night. Looking for a cross, you can lose the ball in the lights and I have done. A lot of keepers do.

"One problem at Arsenal was having six or seven lights so close together in the corners and I managed to get the club to change that. The best type for a keeper are the pylons. But I don't think the Italians are likely to start hitting high balls in there." He has not been successful in getting a training session under the Rome lights, but Hoddle did not seem too concerned. "Goalkeepers will make any excuse," he said.

Seaman was making none about recent errors, notably the goal at Highbury with which PAOK Salonika eliminated Arsenal from the Uefa Cup, which have led some to question his form, though he insists with the promising Austrian Alex Manninger pushing him at Highbury, and an in-form Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright to practice against, he is sharp enough.

In fact, he believes, his opposite number, Angelo Peruzzi, who conceded three for Juventus against Manchester United last week, will come into the game with more concerns about form. "He looks small but he gets himself around," Seaman says. "I don't like letting in goals in. I don't know what type of guy he is but I wouldn't be happy.

"I'm used to criticism," he goes on, adding aptly and accurately. "I am there to be shot at." Though 34, last month, he does not believe he is yet at his peak. "I would say no. There's still a lot to learn. Plus, I might get another contract out of it."

Ray Clemence, England's goalkeeping coach, chips in: "It's because David's mistakes are so rare that people pick them up. It's also easy to forget some of his less publicised contributions, like a great save against Barnsley last Saturday when it was 0-0."

England and Seaman will settle for as much tonight. "It's all about qualifying," he says. "It's all about focusing on not making a mistake."

Though Seaman has been looking relaxed, there has been no opportunity for his and Gazza's favourite relaxation in Italy. "Besides, if we did go fishing over here, we'd need about 20 policemen with us," he said. Instead, the concentration has been on attempting to ensure that Italy sleep with the fishes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all