Football: Beckham fitness fillip for Keegan

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The Independent Online
NEWS THAT the injuries to David Beckham's hamstring, Kieron Dyer's calf and Tony Adams' leg are all easing gave an added boost to the already buoyant England squad who flew here yesterday for tomorrow's vital Euro 2000 qualifying match.

"At present it looks as if everyone will be fit for selection and that includes those three," Kevin Keegan said last night. "All will train tomorrow and, if they do not suffer a reaction to that, will be available on Wednesday."

Good news indeed, not that Keegan's unquenchable public optimism needs much boosting. As the team arrived yesterday afternoon, to be met by watery sunshine, heavy security and the Polish schoolgirl branch of the Michael Owen fan club, he was still bouyed by the Saturday's 6-0 win over Luxembourg.

"What do we bring to Warsaw from the Luxembourg match?" asked Keegan, before answering his own question. "Confidence - and no amount of money can buy you that. Confidence is a crucial thing at any level. It can have a major effect on how your team plays.

"It is one of my jobs to instill confidence in players, they join England from different clubs in different situations. Alan Shearer and Keiron Dyer have come from Newcastle who are at the bottom, the players from Manchester United don't have that problem and it is up to them to lift the others. But there is nothing better than a convincing victory to give everyone a lift.

"There were a lot of pluses from the game. We could have taken nothing, the game could have been like the second half with us getting a 1-0 win from a drab display. It would not have put us in a different position in the group but we would have had a different frame of mind.

"I look at the Polish side and I see a well-organized side. They work hard and do not lose their discipline. But then I look at the players I have got and that is what gives me the confidence we will get a result. I don't think the spirit could be bettered if we were in a World Cup final."

Keegan is aiming for victory and he hopes Poland will be less sure of their approach as, unlike England, they would still control their own destiny should they draw. "They are in a funny position," Keegan said. "A draw might be enough [for them] so do they attack and leave the back door open, or defend and invite us forward?"

England have never played in the Polish capital before, their hosts having previously sent them to the intimidating grounds of the Silesian coalfields. However, England's successes in these cavernous arenas persuaded the Polish FA to reschedule the match in a more intimate venue in Warsaw.

The chosen location is Legia Warsaw's Wojska Polskiego stadium, an unprepossessing but, when the notorious home support is roused, hostile venue. Though the capacity has been cut from 25,000 to 15,500 there will still be 1,800 police on duty.

While England have not played there some of the party have, notably Alan Shearer and David Batty in Blackburn Rovers' 1995 Champions' League defeat by Legia.

There has been some concern over the quality of the facilities, but Keegan said: "When I went over there a few weeks ago I thought it was a good football stadium. The pitch is OK and as far as players are concerned that is the important thing. We've just got to get on with the game and ignore everything else."

Poland's coach, Janusz Wojcik, did his best yesterday to put some pressure on England and in particular Keegan by trying to turn tomorrow's match into a showdown between the two of them. He claimed that England were running scared and said: "It's not just about England and Poland. It's about Keegan and me - and whoever loses the game will lose their job."

He even suggested that "it could be 1973 all over again" - a reference to the Poles' 1-1 draw at Wembley that kept England out of the 1974 World Cup finals.

Keegan was happy to let his team state his case tomorrow. He said: "I suppose by quarter past 10 on Wednesday everything will be answered."

Anelka quit threat, page 24

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