Football: Francis' unqualified success: Ferdinand in full command

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United. . . . .1

Queen's Park Rangers. . .2

GERRY FRANCIS, whose myriad football and business triumphs would send This Is Your Life into

extra-time, dismissed his chances of following Graham Taylor as England manager because 'I haven't got an FA coaching badge'. Many would consider that a plus factor.

The comment came with a grin, but behind the flippancy was a credible philosophy. A Lancaster Gate certificate is not a pre-requisite for prosperity: Graham Taylor, at 21 the youngest ever to acquire the full badge, is only a qualified success.

Tactically, and in the vital spheres of player selection and motivation, Francis has few peers in the Premiership. Rangers' modest resources have forced him to crew a tight ship: the pounds 750,000 Francis spent on the excellent Trevor Sinclair as a replacement for Andy Sinton, a pounds 2.7m departure, already looks a tidy piece of business.

Despite the lack of FA insignia, Francis confirmed again his grasp of how to acquire points from unfavourable venues. His game-plan, against a Newcastle side unbeaten in 10, was solid 4-4-2 with certain players assigned specific tasks to combat the marauding Magpies.

The strategy was three-fold: close down the full-backs, whose ventures forward add such a dangerous dimension to Newcastle's play,

exploit the shortage of pace in the heart of the hosts' defence, and sit on Andy Cole. Francis' wide midfielders performed the first function efficiently, Ferdinand the second (in style) and Darren Peacock followed England's hottest prospect around like a hungry dog.

Cole possesses England ambitions, but for all his control and composure in the box, he still lacks Ferdinand's all-round menace. 'I think Ferdinand showed Cole there are people ahead of him in the queue,' Kevin Keegan said.

The 26-year-old also showed why Keegan tried to sign him, and what England missed in midweek. Ferdinand's pace consistently troubled Kevin Scott, who is beginning to look a liability, his touch is improving under Francis' tuition and his heading was, in John Motson's succinct summary, 'prodigious'. After 10 minutes, a towering leap diverted Peacock's clearance out to Ray Wilkins. The ageless playmaker's pass back to Ferdinand was a delight, the striker scoring via both posts.

Newcastle were thoroughly out-thought and it required a bludgeoning volley from Malcolm Allen to reacquaint them with parity. The Welshman caught the ball so hard that had the net not intervened, the Gallowgate rebuilding programme would have started prematurely. Rangers, though, and Francis in particular, deserved victory secured by another Allen, Bradley, whose hooked winner was engineered by Wilkins and Ferdinand. Who else?

Goals: Ferdinand (10) 0-1; M Allen (48) 1-1; B Allen (50) 1-2.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hooper; Watson, Venison, Scott, Beresford; Lee, Bracewell, Clark, Allen; Cole, Beardsley. Substitutes not used: Sellars, Kilcline, Srnicek (gk).

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Stejskal; Bardsley, McDonald, Peacock, Wilson; Impey, Barker,

Wilkins, Sinclair (Yates, 65); Allen, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: White, Roberts (gk).

Referee: K Hackett (Sheffield).

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