Football: England without the captain? Five striking partnerships for Kevin Keegan to consider
Sunday 28 November 1999
What more must Cole do to persuade Keegan to take him more seriously? How many more overhead kicks have to hit the net? The argument against him is that he wastes too many chances at international level, but he was obviously the striker in form before the matches against Scotland. He also patched up a quarrel with Alan Shearer but was still a non-starter. He and Kevin Phillips, who scores with or without Niall Quinn's help at Sunderland, have been shadowing each other in the leading-scorers table this season and could recreate a Cole-Yorke style of partnership for England.
EMILE HESKEY AND MICHAEL OWEN
This combination looked promising at England Under-21 level. Keegan's latest hints that Owen might benefit from a few games back there suggests he is looking beyond Euro 2000 to the next World Cup, by which time Shearer, with whom Owen has never had a convincing understanding, will be gone. By then Heskey should be a more consistent player and could be the strong front man with Owen perhaps becoming more of a provider. Heskey is not scoring enough goals this season but his ball-holding skills would benefit Owen, who has reacted positively to criticism over his England displays.
ALAN SMITH AND MICHAEL BRIDGES
Peter Reid was desperately sorry to see Bridges leave Sunderland. The 21-year-old, 6ft 1in striker is thriving at Leeds where his speed, control and goals have been essential to the club's early success. The manager, David O'Leary, still feels a stronger leader could make Bridges even more effective, casting doubt on Smith's long-term future at the club, but why spoil a relationship that, in an emergency, could help England? That Keegan omitted Bridges from the squad against Scotland was inexplicable. Smith, 19, got nine goals last season, his first in the Premiership.
CHRIS SUTTON AND ROBBIE FOWLER
What with Fowler's injuries and belligerent brushes with authority, his international career may never come to fruition, yet his natural scoring instinct is rare. Even so, his club partnership with Owen has not reached comparison with those of Anfield's past. Perhaps at international level he would be happier with a ball-holder rather than the target-seeking Shearer. Sutton was bought by Chelsea as much for a Mark Hughes role (keeping possession under pressure) as for his scoring, but he seems out of his depth among cosmopolitan colleagues. Another change of club could help.
KEVIN CAMPBELL AND FRANCIS JEFFERS
When in doubt try a successful club combination. Although they have still to play together on a regular basis, this is a most unlikely success story. Campbell's return from Turkey, where his career was heading for obscurity, to join Everton was met with scepticism, but his scoring touch has returned, sometimes helped by a good relationship with the youthful Jeffers, who would have been in the public eye more but for suspension. Sooner or later he will challenge for full honours, but Evertonians would suggest that in the shorter term Keegan might recall Nicky Barmby.
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