Football: Cole is likely to partner Shearer

KEVIN KEEGAN was pondering his striking options at Bisham Abbey yesterday. Should he go for pace or muscle? Experience or youth? Penalty- box poacher or roving creator? With Alan Shearer's place apparently cast in stone, as it has been since Gary Lineker's retirement seven years ago, and Michael Owen and Kevin Phillips injured, the decision comes down to who partners the captain out of Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Emile Heskey and Robbie Fowler.

Having ended the Hungary match alongside Shearer, Heskey is technically the man in possession but, in the context of Saturday's vital European Championship qualifier against Sweden, he will have to continue his international education as a spectator.

Fowler is also unlikely to start, although he may be on the bench. Keegan spoke glowingly of him this week but the Liverpool striker is short of match fitness due to suspension and injury. Which leaves the Manchester United pair, Cole, who is ending the season poorly, and Sheringham, who is finishing on a high with crucial goals in FA and European Cup finals.

Cole, Keegan's former Newcastle protege, is likely to get the nod this morning. His finishing remains hit-or-miss but he linked well with Shearer against Poland, creating chances for each other and Paul Scholes. Merely being selected will raise his confidence and, maybe, restore his composure around goal. The pairing would also leave space for Scholes to play behind the strikers.

However, it will be a surprise if Sheringham is not involved, especially if things do not go England's way, and he may well start in Sofia against Bulgaria on Wednesday. It is not just form that is on his side, the figures back him up, too. He and Shearer are England's most successful partnership since Peter Beardsley and Lineker.

The Independent has analysed all England's matches since Shearer and Sheringham first teamed up, against the United States at Wembley on 7 September 1994. In the five years since, they have been partners on 24 occasions, totalling just under 25 hours of football. In that time England have scored 27 goals at a rate of one every 55 minutes, Shearer and Sheringham claiming 20 of them. In the matches and parts of matches they have not been in tandem England have scored 48 goals at a rate of one every 78 minutes, a staggering 30 per cent slower.

While Shearer has scored the bulk of the goals Sheringham's importance to the partnership cannot be underestimated. Shearer especially knows his value. With Sheringham alongside he has scored 13 goals at just under two hours football per goal. The nine goals scored without him have taken more than five hours each.

Sheringham's clever passing and his ability to take attention away from Shearer in the air are significant factors but it has been clear, watching Shearer with Owen, that he operates best with a partner who is prepared to do the donkey work and, unlike Owen, will leave the penalty area to Shearer.

Kevin Phillips did so to an extent in Hungary while Cole, with his growing awareness of other players, also looked a promising partner at times but, for the present, Sheringham is Shearer's best cohort.

With Shearer 28 years old, and Sheringham 33, the future may rest with Fowler (24) and Owen (19). Fowler, said Keegan, has been unlucky not to add to his three England starts. For Glenn Hoddle he started twice, scoring both times, but then went a year without playing until he came on as a late substitute in Hoddle's last match.

Much of this is due to injury and the fallout from Fowler's various brushes with authority but, said Keegan, "I can only judge on what I see and I like what I see. He has a tremendous amount to offer. He is as good a natural goalscorer as you are likely to see."

That is for the future. Sheringham said this week: "I feared I might be too old for the new manager", but Keegan, who paid pounds 1.4m for a 32-year- old Peter Beardsley at Newcastle, knows speed of thought can be more valuable than fleet of foot. The question is not whether to play Sheringham, but when.

Keown's approval, page 25

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence