England all fingers and thumbs


England's footballers finally made an impression on the Umbro Cup yesterday, but it was as badly timed as their passing and running in Saturday's fortuitous 2-1 win over Japan.

Three days after producing the most leaden display of Terry Venables' reign as national coach, the squad were asked to immortalise themselves, Hollywood-style, in concrete.

The original plan was to have 22 sets of studs but the Football Association, perhaps fearing the players would emerge looking like Subbuteo men - sparking inevitable "feet of clay" headlines - decided the team would be better off getting their hands dirty instead.

It was not the first time an England footballer had volunteered his fingerprints this season, but it did give the chance for some of Saturday's underachievers to make a mark, albeit a heavy-handed one. At least no-one pulled a muscle while doing so.

The subsequent set of petrified palms will initially form part of a football display in Leeds, which is one of eight cities staging matches at next summer's European Championship.

The stunt, organized by Leeds-based Ready Mixed Concrete, raised the possibility of several spin-offs. Paul Gascoigne is already believed to have contacted his barber to see if he can have a concrete crew cut to improve his heading. Venables, who was heavily criticised after Saturday's game, looked tempted by the prospect of cementing his relationship with the press with a few concrete overcoats.

This may seem even more inviting should England lose their next match, against Sweden at Elland Road, Leeds, tomorrow.

Venables under pressure, page 39