Football: Fowler focuses on final push

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The Independent Online
Football

CLIVE WHITE

Newcastle United are not the only Geordies who have suddenly had to appreciate the threat of Liverpool. Another Tynesider, Alan Shearer, also now knows what it is like to have them breathing down your neck, even if in theory Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore are supposed to be on the same side as their esteemed England colleague.

The belated arrival yesterday of the deadly Liverpool duo at the start of the national squad's three-day get-together at Bisham certainly spiced up the proceedings. Unfortunately, Paul Ince, who has had to wait 11 months - for whatever reason - to renew his acquaintance with England team-mates will have to wait at least one more day. He managed to catch the plane from Milan in time on Sunday, after starring for Internazionale in the game at Vicenza, but has had to give in to a back injury.

"Hopefully, he might feel better tomorrow, if not, we will have to see him another time," said Terry Venables, the England coach. Ince is due back in Italy tomorrow to start preparing for next Sunday's big Serie A match with Parma.

With only 18 outfield players permitted for the finals of the European Championship - a number Venables considers insufficient for possibly six games - it seems unlikely that the Liverpool pair's deadly partnership of 17 goals in the last nine games will be transported just now to the international stage. But one of them might just make it to the finals with a late run, a la Roger Hunt, their Liverpool predecessor, in 1966.

The inclusion of Fowler in the senior squad is not before time, though he did gain some valuable work experience when he and three other members of the England Under-21 squad - Jamie Redknapp, Nick Barmy and Sol Campbell - were called up prior to the match against the United States 15 months ago.

The 20-year-old believed that since then his all-round game had improved, for which he was indebted to the advice of Ian Rush - "I've learnt everything I know off him, from defending to scoring goals." Judging by the manner in which he has put them away some would suggest that that latter quality is purely instinctive. "If I get two chances in a game I know I will put away one of them," he said with the confidence of a man who has already dispatched 23 of them this season.

Fowler certainly looked at home in an international environment yesterday. "There are so many other Liverpool players here [the previously injured Redknapp among them] that it could be our Melwood training ground," he said. "I know now I've got the chance to really aim for a place in the finals. I would be lying if I said I didn't have that ambition."

Despite the late call-up, Venables insisted Fowler had always been in his mind, but warned: "The competition is very finely balanced up front and he's got to force out some pretty formidable names. The door's ajar."

A young man's game it may be, but not when it comes to international management, according to Venables. He was not about to disagree with his No 2 Bryan Robson, who believed that the England job Venables is due to vacate after Euro 96 had come too soon for him. "I've always felt it was a job for an older man because you've got to have certain attitudes. Preferably about 86," he added with a cheeky chappie grin.

There have been a few incumbents who may not have felt that age going into the job, but certainly did coming out of it.

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