Football: England's Butt part

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The Independent Online
The England coach, Glenn Hoddle, is considering tactical changes to send out a more attacking side for the World Cup qualifying match against Georgia at Wembley on Wednesday, a match England must win to retain hopes of automatic entry to the France 98 finals. "We will have a more aggressive head on our shoulders," said Hoddle.

England performed a competent smothering job on a talented Georgian midfield in Tbilisi last November in a 2-0 victory, but the call this time is for a more proactive team that will seize the initiative and set the qualifying campaign back on track after the defeat by Italy in February. With the Italians playing Poland the same night, England need to reassert themselves in Group Two.

Since playing in Tbilisi, Georgia have recruited a new coach in David Kipiani and, according to Hoddle, "tinkered with their shape" in a 7-0 friendly win over Albania. To counter, Hoddle could go for a flexible system capable of switching from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 as the state of the game demands.

"We approached the game over there in the right way but our approach for this one might be different," he said. "It will perhaps be a different set of tactics but the main concern is to get the boys into a positive frame of mind. If we perform well we will get a result. If we are a shade down, they are a good side capable of turning us over."

A dilemma for Hoddle is how many of the team to retain that played so well in Georgia - only Paul Gascoigne and Andy Hinchcliffe are unavailable - and how much to rely on recent form, both for club and country after the Mexico match. "That's the balancing act," said Hoddle.

It is certain that Alan Shearer, seemingly fully fit after his third groin operation, will return, probably as captain to partner Teddy Sheringham up front for the first time since Euro 96. However, with the return of David Seaman in goal apart, the midfield and defence are less easily arrived at.

Despite Robert Lee's impressive performance on the right of midfield against Mexico, it is likely that David Beckham will be recalled after injury last month, possibly to play in front of his Manchester United club-mate Gary Neville, who can operate either as right-back in a four- man defence or on the right side of a back three.

The time, it seems, is not yet right for Beckham to play more centrally. "I have gone on record as saying that eventually he will and against Mexico he would have," said Hoddle, "But I have got to look at options, although that is one that we have."

Centrally, the fitness of Tony Adams, though he is still feeling the effects of an ankle injury, is a fillip and his successful alliance with Gareth Southgate should continue. Graeme Le Saux should also retain his place on the left.

In front of them, Hoddle will certainly play Paul Ince and the choice of a midfield partner is probably between David Batty and Nicky Butt. Batty was the unselfish man for the job in Georgia but Butt's youthful mobility may now give him the edge. Hoddle still appears to favour Steve McManaman coming in from the left despite his recent patchy form.

Such a team could provide England with a reasonable balance and achieve the twin aims of counteracting the Georgian strengths, notably the trickery of Georgi Kinkladze and Temur Ketsbaia - the latter being looked at by Newcastle United with a view to securing him from AEK Athens - as well as forcing them on to the back foot.

It is a match England should win and all seems set fair for them; no serious injuries to fret over, five days of rest and recuperation for those from Liverpool and Manchester United.

After Italy's goalless draw in Poland last month, a window of opportunity has re-opened for England and a similar result in the return this week between the two, allied to an England victory on Wednesday, would suddenly rekindle optimism for the crucial trip to Poland next month.

ENGLAND (possible): Seaman; G Neville, Adams, Southgate; Beckham, Ince, Butt, McManaman, Le Saux; Shearer, Sheringham.

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