Football: Anderton cheers before the jeers

The Tottenham midfielder looks to have put the years of hurt behind him. Andrew Longmore reports

IF the idea of pre-World Cup friendlies is to leave a bit of slack in the rope, England have strain to spare before Marseilles in three weeks' time. The United boys were coming back off leave, Alan Shearer and David Batty were returning to the scene of last Saturday's desolation in different colours and Darren Anderton was stretching his legs on the stretch of turf he last left heavy-hearted in the wake of Gareth Southgate's missed penalty when football was coming home. A kick-about in Hyde Park had more venom.

Hearing the updated version of Three Lions - shouldn't it be 32 years of hurt now? - seeing the fluttering flotilla of flags, feeling the uncut jingoism, Anderton must have wondered whether his last two years had been no more than a bad dream.

Anderton will tell you, in that soft voice of his, about the extra two years of hurt. Five hernia ops and more time than he cares to remember watching the Premiership from his post by the entrance to the tunnel at White Hart Lane; all the barbs about his nickname "Sicknote", invented by Andy Gosney, the reserve-team goalkeeper at Portsmouth where he was more usually known as "Shaggy" after the character in Scooby Doo; the litany of doctors' appointments and disappointments. A mere 21 League starts in two years, just two full games this season, which made a mockery of Glenn Hoddle's bizarre suggestion that he "was a naturally fit boy". When he's not injured, you mean.

If Anderton thought his torment was at an end, a section of the Wembley crowd had other ideas. Arsenal supporters, Gazzamaniacs or sheer ignoramuses? Anderton had to endure a flurry of boos in the second half as the admirably aggressive England line-up flattered to deceive and the rousing send-off, so enthusiastically engineered by the man on the microphone, turned into a lacklustre wave of the hand. Yet his vision and ability to cross the ball marked Anderton out for a plus in an equation of minuses.

In a week devoted to the chastising of Paul Gascoigne, the England coach was able to lend weight to his words of warning by selecting a creative England midfield bereft of the ageing tear-jerker. It was significant that Anderton, not Gascoigne, was given the road test, sporty convertible preferred to rusting charabanc, and just a shame that Anderton never quite found top gear.

There is time yet. Anderton lends a degree of imagination and unpredictability desperately lacking from the England line-up in recent months. An early 40-yard ball utterly surprised Shearer, who backpedalled furiously only to find the ball was meant to hit the free space behind him. Residents of Fawlty Towers have had more service than the Newcastle striker in the last two months. Another long cross produced a flashing header over the bar by the otherwise workaday Andy Hinchcliffe.

"People who were booing him clearly don't understand the game," Glenn Hoddle said. "He kept the ball well and tackled back strongly. His use of the ball was excellent." His assessment contrasted with the Gallic shrug with which he dismissed Gascoigne's 30-minute theatre.

If the question mark over Anderton was largely removed, a few others refused erasure. Anderton might be able to survive a gentle workout against Saudi Arabia, but can he be risked as the right wing-back in front of a three-man defence, a role which requires the stamina of a marathon runner and a heart the size of a melon? And is David Batty, an odd choice as man of the match, enough cover in front of the defence?

Not for the first time in an undistinguished build-up, England looked uncomfortable in reverse. The quicksilver Sayeed Al-Owairan could have embarrassed Adams and Co far more seriously had David Seaman not been at his most alert.

The Saudi Arabians, well organised by Carlos Parreira, the peripatetic Brazilian World Cup-winning coach whose record against England - with Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia - reads played five, won two, drawn two, created as many chances as England, the last of them the best when Ibrahim Sweid Al-Shahrani, handful and mouthful all afternoon, sliced a left-foot shot wide from 15 yards on the stroke of the final whistle. Had that been buried with the clinical efficiency of a Brazilian, Italian or, dare one say it, Tunisian, the final rousing chorus of Three Lions, which just drowned out the jeers, would have sounded even more outdated. The worrying thought is that England are a few cylinders short of full power. And the time for repairs is running out.

"On top of the world," blared the loudspeakers as England did a desultory semi-lap of honour. But only the most sanguine of souls departing the Twin Towers yesterday could seriously believe that a parade of the Jules Rimet Trophy will be part of the next Wembley convention in the autumn. "Comme ci, comme ca," as Hoddle said. At least the French accent had potential.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?