Football: Fowler likely to join Shearer

KEVIN KEEGAN is an ebullient man, but even he is beginning to get depressed by the task of issuing daily medical bulletins on his squad. Playing the role of a doctor's receptionist was not, to coin a phrase, what he saw in the brochure when he agreed to be England coach.

The latest withdrawal from his squad for the European Championship qualifiers against Luxembourg on Saturday and Poland on Wednesday is David Seaman, the Arsenal goalkeeper who has bowed to the inevitable, having not played at all this season. His departure with a calf injury is not a surprise nor a major problem, assuming Nigel Martyn remains fit. The Leeds goalkeeper has been in impressive form and now has the chance to establish himself in the No 1 jersey.

At least the strikers remain fit and it is when the conversation turns to them that the enthusiasm surges back into Keegan's voice. England are blessed with a number of high quality forwards at present and he is well aware of his fortune.

"It is lovely to work with the best and they're all so different," he said after training at Bisham Abbey. "In Chris Sutton I see someone who is big but has got very good feet. In Robbie Fowler I see someone who is left-footed but scores with his right often enough to make you worried. Like Arsenal on Saturday, they back-tracked, and he went left, right, left, right, and forced the keeper into a great save.

"I see Michael Owen, just sheer pace and lack of respect, not in a nasty way, in a `I will take you on' way, like he did to the Argentinian defence.

"I still see in Alan Shearer the stubbornness and the leadership qualities and this, you know, `yes, prove them wrong' resistance because he's had to do that a lot of times in his career and not just now. Then there's Kevin Phillips, and Teddy Sheringham, and you could throw Andy Cole [who is not in the squad] in to that if you want."

The problem for Keegan is who to play against Luxembourg on Saturday, and Poland next week. He insists, despite the captain's lack of form, that it is Shearer plus one - or two.

"He will definitely start," said Keegan. "You might say, `doesn't that put him under more pressure?' I don't think people like Shearer can be put under any more pressure. Every time they step on the field they are under pressure.

"I think what Shearer has to try to do now is draw a line. There has been massive upheaval at his club and he has taken his share of flak, some of it over the top."

So, who partners him? In the past Shearer has worked well with Sutton for Blackburn and both Sheringham and, in their one outing, Phillips, for England. Owen, if fully fit, would appear the most formidable partner but there is a question mark over how well they combine. Fowler, meanwhile, is in the richest form.

Keegan's subsequent comments suggested the most likely starting partner for Shearer is Fowler, possibly with Sheringham behind them, even though that trio failed to impress against Bulgaria in June. Sutton and Owen would be options from the bench.

"Was I excited by Robbie on Saturday? Who wouldn't be? I thought his performance was, at times, breathtaking. He stood out like a beacon, it was as well as I have seen him play `live'.

"He has matured. He's always been a kid who has done really well. Now he's a young man. He's had a kiddie which, as I said to him, means even more responsibility. He has to be given the chance to thrive on that responsibility and handle it. Maybe he has not been given that before but now Gerard Houllier has made him vice-captain at Liverpool and he's responding to that."

Owen only got a couple of minutes on Saturday and, though Keegan thought he needed the match less than `a big defender like Sol Campbell' [who, as expected, returned injured to Tottenham yesterday], he felt his sharpness and stamina might be affected.

With one eye on the Poland match he thus indicated that Owen would either start or finish on Saturday but was unlikely to do both.

That hints at a preference for Owen and Shearer, despite post-World Cup evidence that they do not gel well. "That's fair comment," said Keegan, "but that doesn't mean they're not capable of playing really well together. We're judging them on one game all the time; sometimes after a three-month break. I don't think there is a clash of egos. I think there's a youthfulness about one and a maturity about the other, so there's no reason, bearing in mind the ability of the two, why they can't play together.

"Against Argentina [in the World Cup], before it was disrupted [by David Beckham's dismissal], I didn't see too much wrong with it."

Yet it all hinges on Shearer's mood. In response to the suggestion that he and Sutton played well together at Blackburn, Keegan inadvertently pinpointed the problem with the captain's state of mind.

"At that time they were playing in a team full of confidence, a team that was to go on and win the championship. That is a big factor in football. Alan has not been playing in a side full of confidence. It does affect you when you're up front. You can't quite do the things a midfield player and defender can do in terms of getting involved because of the position you play in the side."

Since England are not exactly playing with confidence either it is, perhaps, a blessing that they meet Luxembourg first. A few Shearer goals against the part-timers and everything could look much rosier when England set off for Warsaw on Monday.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments