Beardsley first to get the bad news

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It did not seem significant at the time, but the symbolism of a brief exchange towards the end of England's match with China on Thursday became apparent yesterday.

With 19 minutes left, and England leading 3-0, Peter Beardsley came on for Nick Barmby, the scorer of two of the goals. Then Tony Adams was substituted and, as he left, he passed the captain's armband to Beardsley. Two days later Beardsley discovered that those 14 minutes as captain of his country were to be the last of his international career.

Terry Venables, who this morning names his 22-man squad for Euro 96, yesterday revealed that Beardsley would not be in it. With a new manager taking over in July, it seems certain that the 35-year-old with 59 caps to his name will not be winning a 60th.

"It was nice when Tony passed me the armband," Beardsley said yesterday. "Then I looked round and I realised I was about 10 years older than everyone else.

"I think I knew then. I had not started for a while and Nick had come in against China and been magnificent. That probably tipped the balance in his favour. If I'd played against China it might have gone the other way, but that's the way it goes."

Beardsley's last start for England was against Sweden in June. The China game was the second of two substitute appearances this season, both replacing Barmby who, at 21, is 14 years his junior.

Barmby idolises Beardsley and they have been rooming together. Which made it embarrassing for both parties when Beardsley told Barmby he was out. "He joked at first, he could not believe it," Beardsley said.

"In a funny way he's disappointed for me. It is hard to know what to say in that position. If it had been the reverse even I, with my experience, would have found it hard. It sounds big-headed, but the way he looks up to me and treats me made it difficult.

"He would not even tell his wife - we both speak to our wives with the other in the room and he was too embarrassed to say 'I've a great chance because Peter's out' with me there. In the end I said, 'I'll tell her if you can't.'

"I look at him and I see myself 13 or 14 years ago. If anything is a bonus out of this it is that he is in."

The decision comes close behind the disappointment of Newcastle's championship failure, but Beardsley said: "They are two lows, but if you look at the amount of highs I have had I cannot really complain. I got 10 caps under Terry I would not have got under Graham Taylor."

The first of those was also his 50th, after three years on 49. "That was the highlight," Beardsley said of his international career, adding: "the best match I played was the World Cup semi-final against West Germany."

Beardsley made his England debut in January 1986 and his partnership with Gary Lineker helped England to reach the World Cup quarter-finals that year. He scored nine goals in his 59 matches, but made many more. The contribution his football intelligence and enthusiasm made was equally large, a familiar sight at every England training session was Beardsley collecting up the balls while his team-mates headed for the team bus.

Not many players would have volunteered to speak to the media after being dropped from the squad, and his decency and helpfulness was recognised afterwards by a rare ovation from the press.

"He had asked to be told if he wasn't going to make it, so I told him after training on Saturday," Venables said. "He's been the perfect example. He is the best professional I have worked with. I'm not just saying that today, I have said it all the way through. He could feel he has not had the chances he should have had and I would accept that, but others can feel the same."

Gary Pallister is also out of the squad. With Tony Adams and Steve Howey recently injured, Venables said he could not risk Pallister's back problem.

It is a very difficult squad to predict. Venables has aimed to include as many versatile players, like Sol Campbell, as possible and provide cover for every place. But he has not been able to give the likes of Campbell, Ugo Ehiogu and Jason Wilcox as much experience as he would have liked. Then there is the question of specialists - does he include Wilcox, the only genuine winger, and two or three centre-forwards?

Sixteen players are definite: Seaman, Walker, Flowers (three goalkeepers are compulsory), Gary Neville, Philip Neville, Pearce, Adams, Southgate, Ince, Gascoigne, Platt, Anderton, McManaman, Barmby, Sheringham, Shearer. Rob Lee is a likely 17th inclusion.

Two of the remaining five places will go to defenders, Campbell for his versatility gets one while Howey's greater experience wins him the nod over Ehiogu if he is fit. That leaves three places.

Steve Stone has impressed for England but not on this tour; Jamie Redknapp has yet to recover form after his mid-season injury; Wilcox offers a different dimension but Dennis Wise is an old favourite and managers, under pressure, tend to stick with the tried and trusted.

Neither of the front pair have the close-control required to fit England's measured build-up, but at least one must be in. Robbie Fowler could emerge as a force in the championship but Les Ferdinand, unlike Fowler or Alan Shearer, has at least scored for England in the last 18 months.

A personal choice would be Stone for balance on the right, Wilcox for variety, Ferdinand for his greater experience. Venables may well prefer Wise to Wilcox.

Possible squad: Seaman, Walker, Flowers; G Neville, P Neville, Pearce, Adams, Southgate, Campbell, Howey (Ehiogu if not fit), Ince, Gascoigne, Platt, Lee, Anderton, McManaman, Stone, Wilcox, Barmby, Sheringham, Shearer, Ferdinand.

Left out: Ehiogu, Redknapp, Wise, Fowler.

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