Football: Chance for Wright to put it right: Arsenal striker promised an opportunity to break duck in Turkey

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The Independent Online
IAN WRIGHT'S turbulent temperament, as much as his goalscoring potential, will be put to the test on Wednesday, when the Arsenal striker is certain to start England's World Cup qualifying tie against Turkey, in Izmir.

The Premier League's leading scorer missed the 6-0 drubbing of San Marino through injury, but has been promised a place this time, which puts him one up on his mentor and friend, John Barnes.

Graham Taylor again paid lip service to Barnes's special talent yesterday, but he was as disappointed as the rest of us by the Liverpool captain's unconvincing performance against the Sammarinese, which left the Wembley crowd booing his every touch.

The manager stopped short of saying it in so many words, but left the unavoidable impression that Barnes could expect nothing more than a place on the bench next week.

Wright, on the other hand, would definitely play, Taylor said. He had declared himself fully recovered from a recurring stomach injury, insisting he did not need the hernia operation Arsenal have hinted at, and would have another chance - his eighth - to score his first goal for England.

His disciplinary record with his club had given cause for concern but, Taylor added, he had never been in trouble at international level. Wrong. There was a fracas with a New Zealand defender on the one previous occasion he played away, in June 1991, prompting a public rebuke from the manager's assistant, Lawrie McMenemy.

Taylor stood corrected - 'You've got a long memory' - but saw no reason to think twice about playing his short-fused striker in one of the most hostile environments in European football. 'I don't think Ian has let England down,' he said, 'and he is sensible enough to know that there are certain things he ought not to get involved in.'

Wright's own view was less encouraging - 'Next season, I'm going to play exactly the same way' - but Taylor was prepared to take the rough with the smooth. 'We can't always condone the things he does when he gets in trouble, but it is not something that is premeditated. It's just the lad's nature.' The spiky competitor was also 'sharp and quick, with an appetite for goals', Taylor said. 'He's a bubbly personality, and good to have around.'

The emphasis at the squad's Buckinghamshire retreat yesterday was on mental, as much as physical, readiness, and it was here that Wright and Paul Gascoigne, among others, scored over Barnes.

Wembley's abuse had left its scars, and Taylor admitted: 'It would be silly for me to deny that I have not given it some thought'.

The 'herd instinct' was largely to blame, he said. 'People shout at Ian Wright: 'You'll never score for England', and with Chris Waddle it's: 'You'll never play for England'.'

'Quite so,' said the man from the Sun, 'but in Waddle's case it's you doing the shouting.' Gotcha.

When the hilarity subsided, it was back to Barnes, whose substandard fitness was not about to improve between now and Wednesday. It was a problem to which Taylor was giving 'some thought'.

On a more upbeat note, Gascoigne, whose ebbing stamina and influence had Taylor voicing his concern after San Marino's visit, was looking 'much better'. He seemed 'trimmer', the manager said. 'I went to see him when Lazio played Genoa because I was very concerned about the state he was in. Sometimes, when you are under stress, you get involved in comfort eating, and perhaps comfort drinking, and in the period up to the San Marino game he looked an unhappy lad. That's not the case now. In training, he has done much better than he did last time.'

No fewer than six players reported a variety of ailments yesterday, but only Tony Dorigo's twisted ankle is deemed serious enough to jeopardise his chances of making tomorrow's lunchtime flight. John Beresford, of Newcastle United, has been summoned as cover, but Andy Sinton of QPR is the likelier understudy.

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