Football: Cole given chance to redeem himself

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SO NOW we know. In his final hours Glenn Hoddle discovered forgiveness, writes Glenn Moore.

In his last act as England coach, Hoddle had recalled Andy Cole, the man who had used the front page of The Sun to brand Hoddle a "coward" for not selecting him in November. Hoddle was, however, going to give him the chance to be involved in next Wednesday's Wembley friendly with France.

In the months to come Chris Sutton and Paul Gascoigne, though probably not Matt Le Tissier, whose international days seem to be over, might also have been recalled from their banishment. That may yet happen, but it will not be Hoddle conducting the rapproachment.

There was a certain poignancy about reading his last squad list when it was issued at Wembley yesterday. It had shades of reading a letter from someone who had departed since writing. Here were plans that will now never be completed, dreams that will never be fulfilled. Hoddle had also called up Kieron Dyer, the talented Ipswich youngster. What role had he for him? And would Cole have played?

That task now falls to Howard Wilkinson, the caretaker manager, who said he decided it would be best to select Hoddle's squad as planned - "no additions, no subtractions" - in the interests of continuity. It is the right decision.

Any differences would probably be over the fringe positions. With one or two high-profile exceptions, Hoddle largely picked the right squads.

From his last party Ian Wright, David Batty, Emile Heskey and Lee Hendrie drop out; Michael Owen, Tony Adams and Paul Ince are recalled. All but Hendrie's absence and Ince's return are enforced by injury. Hendrie, who made a sprightly debut against the Czech Republic in November but admits he is now in poor form, will be in the Under-21 squad which is named today.

Ince, who is suspended from next month's European Championship qualifier against Poland, is unlikely to play. That was Hoddle's intention, with FA backing, and Wilkinson is unlikely to dissent.

Wilkinson said he will not change much, but it is probable that he will switch to 4-4-2. Most players are happier with that and, as he said at the FA Coaches' Association Conference in November: "My particular preference is for four at the back. I think the demands of the modern game... make it extremely difficult for wing-backs to cover the ground they are supposed to."

If Wilkinson adheres to this, the only problem is on the left, where the lack of suitable players means he may be forced to push Graeme Le Saux forward and bring in Andy Hinchcliffe at left-back.

Wilkinson said: "I have to decide what is achievable in the three days I will have with the players. I have not got a magic wand. Ideally, the fans will see players who are only happy to give 10 out of 10 for effort and feel secure enough to express themselves. I am not going to be stupid enough to claim more than my share of credit in the event of a super victory, nor will I take more than my share of the blame."

As for Cole, he said: "In my view, he is a very good player, in finishing terms his record speaks for itself. It was no surprise to me he was included. It's a terrific squad. You'd be happy taking it to Aston Villa."

With respect to the Premiership challengers, the world champions are a more formidable prospect.


(Friendly v France, Wembley, Wednesday 10 February)

Martyn (Leeds Utd)

Wright (Ipswich)

Seaman (Arsenal)

R Ferdinand (West Ham)

Campbell (Tottenham)

Southgate (Aston Villa)

G Neville (Manchester Utd)

Adams (Arsenal)

Keown (Arsenal)

Anderton (Tottenham)

Dyer (Ipswich)

Le Saux (Chelsea)

Hinchcliffe (Sheffield Wed)

Beckham (Manchester Utd)

Scholes (Manchester Utd)

Ince (Liverpool)

Butt (Manchester Utd)

Merson (Aston Villa)

Redknapp (Liverpool)

Shearer (Newcastle)

Owen (Liverpool)

Fowler (Liverpool)

Cole (Manchester Utd)

Dublin (Aston Villa)