Football: A tall order even for the complete footballer: Five former internationals talk to Jasper Rees about the elusive art of goalscoring

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The Independent Online
PETER SHILTON on the diminishing skills of the striker:

THE skills a centre-forward needs are still ability and anticipation - being able to read things and get in on the end of stuff. But the strikers were overall slightly better 10 years ago. The average player probably hasn't quite got the touch because of the speed of the ball. What has slightly gone out of the game is the ability of strikers to actually beat people, dribble round people and take people on. Now it's all pass and move and chase and percentages.

Football has changed quite a lot: there's a lot of reliance on pace and physical strength. More and more teams are hitting the ball into an area and making people chase on to it. There's a lot more percentage stuff now. The attitude is get the ball in the box early and the more balls you get in the box the more chances you're going to have. That puts pressure on the goalkeepers because they've got to deal with the ball coming into the box from all angles and not necessarily aimed for anybody in particular. Ten years ago the build-up was slower and the ball into the box was actually aimed at a particular player.

CYRILLE REGIS on the different types of centre-forward:

THERE have always been two types of centre-forward. There is the one who doesn't do a lot of work outside the box, doesn't really get involved with the build-up but is deadly inside it. And there's the centre-forward who does a lot of work outside the box, joining up play, leading the line, and usually doesn't get his share of goals. But both complement each other.

In the last 10 years of my career I've got into the latter sort of role, because if chances are not being created you try to make things happen. Perhaps I got sucked into that - trying to initiate flows and patterns, and consequently found myself more and more outside the box.

You've got scorers who can manufacture goals for themselves and scorers who need goals to be created for them. Gary Lineker falls into the latter category. The main thing is that they never get fed up missing the target; goalscorers live on hitting the ball in the back of the net and have the drive to keep on doing it. They share the need to get into the box, the need not to give up, the need to keep buying the raffle ticket.

ALAN HANSEN on the gamekeeper turned poacher:

IT'S a completely different ball game playing centre-back and centre-forward in your movement, your anticipation. At centre-back you're always playing percentages, whereas when you're playing centre-forward you've got to take a chance all the time. When I got into the opponents' penalty area I was a completely different player from when I was in my box. I knew exactly what I was doing in my box but once I got to the other end I was like a nervous wreck. I had two great feet but when I got into the other box I was snatching at it. I only scored about 13 or 14 goals in 620-odd games.

As for Paul Warhurst, he's got pace, good movement, two decent feet, plus he's playing in a side who are scoring goals. He turns quickly, but he moves into position as well and he's starting to drag away from defenders. When he started he looked like a centre-back playing centre-forward. You still wouldn't say that his movement is as good as an Alan Shearer; you can still pick out times when he's playing as a centre-back. But there's not many who can do it.

FRANK STAPLETON on the step up to international striker:

When you play international football the forwards aren't the ones that get the chances - it tends to be the ones coming from behind - because of the man-to-man marking system. You have to take defenders away from the box and leave spaces for midfield players. When I came into the Irish side I scored in my first game but it was another 11 before I got a second goal. It takes a while before you figure it all out. Ian Rush has scored more goals for Wales latterly than he did in his earlier years - that's experience. You pick up the positions more, you know what to expect. It sometimes doesn't happen until 20 games.

England should have been blooding someone over the last year or so. You've got to do it over a long period and not just bring them into the squad without playing them. At international level you have to have a centre-forward who's able to receive the ball and join up the midfield and make things happen on the floor as well as in the air. To be the complete player for that position is pretty difficult.

DENIS LAW on how he might have fared in today's game:

IT would be more difficult today. Defences are much tighter, much more organised than they were in the Sixties and Seventies. Goalscorers will always score, but I would think they would score less nowadays. If a guy scored 20 goals a season I would think in today's football he would get 14. It was the same when I went to Italy. It was very difficult because it was very, very defensive, and I think the highest scorer in the league that season scored 14 or 16 goals.

In the English game it has become more restricted. The opportunities are not the same because in the old days we used to have wingers who supplied you with the ammunition to get the chances. We would have eight chances and we might get one or two; now the chances are not coming in any numbers. In the old days it was one centre-half; now of course there's two, so that makes it much more difficult. In the old days if you could take a corner with the old leather ball and put it in the penalty area, you were in the team; if you headed it you got the Victoria Cross.

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