Euro 2000; England v Scotland: Redknapp revels in the role of team man

t WEMBLEY SHOWDOWN Liverpool central midfielder is happy to move into Keegan's problem position on the left to be part of international set-up
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JAMIE REDKNAPP and David Beckham occupied opposite sides of the field in England's cause on Saturday - and their subsequent eating arrangements reflected equally contrasting roles.

While Beckham, accompanied by wife Posh Spice, patronised The Ivy restaurant in Covent Garden later that night, Jamie, accompanied by wife Louise - former singer in Eternal - enjoyed a spot of Sunday roast at his mother- in-law's.

Redknapp dealt yesterday with the suggestion that such homely routines gave rock and roll a bad name by producing a block tackle. "We're not rock and roll," he said, with quiet determination.

His image as the kind of boy any girl would like to take home to her mum extends to the footballing domain in which he has made his name since moving from Bournemouth to Liverpool as a 17-year-old.

As Kevin Keegan made clear yesterday while preparing his men for tomorrow's return Euro 2000 qualifying match with Scotland, Redknapp is the kind of player any manager would like to have in his team. Even if, as happened at Hampden, they have to be played out of their normal position.

While Redknapp, normally a right-sided midfield player, was diplomatic about his prospects in the wide-left role he occupied against Scotland, Keegan made the central point about players and attitude.

"When I gave Jamie that opportunity to play left-side, I knew people would say he was better in the centre. But when I asked him: `Will you accept for the moment that you can't be there because of the personnel we have, but would you play here?' whoosh. Just like that, it was - `dead right I will. Of course I will'. All the players desperately want to be a part of it..."

For Redknapp, who has long been looked upon as a potential England regular, becoming a real part of it has proved elusive as the statistics bear out. At 26, the Liverpool captain has played just 16 times for his country, and his spectacular goal against Belgium last month was his first at senior level.

A large part of the reason for Redknapp's late international development has been the debilitating series of injuries he has suffered since breaking his ankle against Scotland in the Euro 96 campaign shortly after Terry Venables had brought him on as a second-half substitute. He suffered another untimely break in the warm-up to the 1998 World Cup finals, just as Glenn Hoddle appeared on the brink of establishing him in the side as sweeper.

Redknapp, however, is now hopeful that, under this third England manager, he is about to make himself a regular fixture.

As he looked ahead to tomorrow's second part of a domestic argument in which England appeared to have all the answers, Redknapp stressed the importance of the team ethic in a way which would have pleased his manager greatly. "I probably didn't get as much of the ball as I would have liked on Saturday," he said. "It was one of those games where you have to sacrifice a bit and make sure the team benefited. But I think I coped more as the game went on."

Redknapp's diligence in monitoring the activities of Scotland's Craig Burley and Don Hutchinson allowed the England strategy of freeing Paul Scholes for forward runs to be triumphantly realised. It is the kind of thing managers remember.

The fact that it is his old Liverpool colleague Paul Ince, back in England's good books after missing three matches through suspension, who occupies the central England midfield role is something he accepts with good grace.

"I saw the match for the first time on television earlier today," he said, "and in the second half Paul was picking the ball up and running with it and that is the Incey we know. It is almost like he has started again and found his feet. I'm a good friend of his. He is a leader and a winner."

When Keegan lets his players know the Wembley line-up today, you sense that Redknapp - who anticipates being watched by a family group including his wife, her parents, and his father Harry, the West Ham manager - would be happy to play another supporting role.

"You have to be together as a team," he said. "There is no other way. You could not hear the national anthem for booing on Saturday. The crowd doing that brought us closer. It made us feel `come on, let's show something together'."

As for the individual bit - Redknapp is cautiously optimistic. "I played the last two games and we won," he said. "I'm enjoying things, and I feel the more I play the better I can get."

Are you listening, Mr Keegan?

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