Adams can afford to look on the bright side

England's odyssey to the Orient has helped some players to prove their worth. Glenn Moore reports from Hong Kong

Tony Adams wore the smile of a player who knows he will be playing in Euro 96. There are not many Englishmen who can say that at present and for Adams the knowledge is all the sweeter for knowing that, less than a month ago, he was staring at the prospect of following the tournament on television.

At that stage he was sitting at home, contemplating his knee injury, his mind alive to the slightest twinge. Yesterday he was in the spartan departure lounge of Peking airport, en route to Hong Kong and cheerfully recalling his first senior match in four months, against China on Thursday.

"It was super. I am absolutely delighted with the knee. The timing was back, everything was there. Obviously a few doubts were in the back of my mind.

"When you are out for three and half months there is a lot of time sitting on your bum wondering if it is going to be all right. I stayed positive with myself and I am delighted to have come through the game with no probems.

"It was my D-Day. I thought it was important to put a game under my belt. I did not want to go into the championship and let anyone down. It is an unbelievable thing to be involved in a European Championship, especially in your own country, and it is something I want to be in - I think we have every chance of winning it. But if I had not come through last night I would not have been involved."

The match was a decent work-out for Adams, though it would have needed a poor performance by England for China to have won. They have been very successful against touring Western and South American teams but this was probably the first time they had come up against a side which was committed to winning, rather than enjoying the tour.

"You need to concentrate very hard against them early on," added Adams, "which we did. After that we slowly stamped our authority on the game."

Terry Venables was, understandably, equally pleased. "He is an important player," he said. "He is a leader, he understands what you want and transfers it on to the pitch."

With Mark Wright injured, Adams seems certain to start against Switzerland when England open Euro 96 on 8 June - though Southgate's latest assured performance suggests he cannot be complacent.

The other star of England's 3-0 win, Nick Barmby, is less likely to play, as Teddy Sheringham appears to have the link-man role sewed up. Barmby's two goals should, however, ensure he is in the squad, a situation which did not seem likely a week ago.

The Middlesbrough striker was very relieved to have scored his first goals for England, after missing good chances in earlier internationals, and he noted: "You've got to take your chances in international football, they are few and far between. I certainly learned that against Colombia and Portugal."

The rest of the party's composition is still a mystery, though Les Ferdinand must be feeling concerned. Venables may give some indication today when he names the team for tomorrow's friendly with Golden, a Hong Kong club side augmented by a couple of familiar names (kick-off 8.45am British time).

Dave Watson, the Everton central defender and former England international, has flown out to team up with regulars Mick Duxbury, once of England and Manchester United, and Carlton Fairweather, an FA Cup winner with Wimbledon.

Those with longer memories may recall Iain Hesford, once a promising enough goalkeeper with Blackpool to win England Under-21 recognition. Venables certainly remembers him, he was managing the Under-21s at the time. Hesford is now 35 - an indication of how long it has taken Venables to make the step up.

There is also Lee Bullen, whom only the anoraks and Stenhousemuir supporters will remember - he made four appearances for the Scottish club a few years ago.

Venables said he will not be picking his first-choice team but one designed to clarify a few questions in his mind. Only Steve Howey needs to play in terms of fitness, though Venables insisted if he was not picked it would not mean he was definitely out of Euro 96.

England will win comfortably, with, it is to be hoped, a few goals from Alan Shearer. Even though Venables makes the point that he has chosen midfielders with a goalscoring habit so as not to rely on one man, it is about time his leading centre-forward broke his drought.

Even if it is a semi-serious fixture - no caps are being awarded - hitting the net in a white shirt will undoubtedly lift Shearer's confidence.

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