Football: Froggatt's fortunes rekindled by Keegan

Euro 2000 Play-Offs Surprises on both sides as Cole is picked despite Shearer jibes while Scotland hopes for Ipswich striker are crushed
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The Independent Online
NOT EVEN Andy Cole's loose talk could persuade Kevin Keegan to offer David Johnson a new home for his wandering ambitions yesterday but he did produce a bolt from the sky blue when he announced his squad for the forthcoming 'Battle of Britain'.

That was the previously unheralded Steve Froggatt, of Coventry City, who becomes the latest candidate for the problem position on the left flank.

Such is the paucity of options, with Graeme Le Saux, Kieron Dyer and Stuart Pearce injured, and Phil Neville likely to cover for his brother Gary on the right, that Froggatt could play against the Scots.

Similar injury problems in attack mean England might also line up at Hampden Park on Saturday week, for the first-leg of the Euro 2000 play- off, with Cole partnering Alan Shearer in attack.

This would be a reprise of Keegan's first striking partnership, against Poland, when they looked good together. Last week, however, Cole criticised Shearer's apparent God-given right to a place in the team regardless of his form.

In a serialised extract from his forthcoming autobiography, Cole wrote: "Shearer has been the favourite, always-picked chosen son of all our national managers during the 1990s.

"It's an issue which always bugs me. I believe Alan Shearer's position should have been open to challenge. All of us had to fight for a place in England's front line because Shearer was guaranteed a place."

Keegan said he had told Cole some of things in the book would have been "better left unsaid" but he defended Cole's right to say them. Even so, he was concerned enough to ask Cole to fax him the relevant chapter before ringing Shearer in advance of the squad announcement to tell him he would be including Cole.

Keegan, who stressed he was informing Shearer, not asking his opinion, said the captain replied: "To have left him out on his current form would have been ridiculous."

Keegan who, like Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle, has always chosen Shearer, said: "There is no case to answer, Shearer's goal record sets him apart. When other players get the opportunity they have to seize it and while Andy did alright I don't think he seized it last time.

"I've named the forwards I've got left," added the England coach, who did not include the out-of-form Chris Sutton or the injured Robbie Fowler. Keegan said he hoped Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Kevin Phillips, all of whom were recently injured, would get some action over the weekend.

Not that he welcomed the "sadly-timed" programme which sees 10 of his squad in action on Sunday, nine of them in London derbies and Shearer against McEverton who will have three of Craig Brown's squad in the team.

That could be a bruising encounter, but no more than the Glasgow derby which is also on Sunday and should feature six more of Brown's squad.

"I don't have a team in my mind, I will see who is fit on Monday," said Keegan. He is likely to pick a 3-5-2 formation, not least because he is spoilt for choice at centre-half but struggling for full-backs.

This is the reason Froggatt has been included. "He could be the answer on the left," said Keegan. "He plays left wing-back or left-midfield and his form is as good as I've ever seen it. He's a talented lad who played for England Under-21s but suffered a lot of injuries."

Froggatt was discovered by Graham Taylor playing schoolboy football in his native Lincoln in 1991. Taylor took him to Aston Villa then signed him again, for pounds 1m, for Wolves three years later. Injuries continued to be a problem and four years ago he missed six months of the season after doctors discovered he had a blood clot.

More recently he has been injury-free and, with his consistency improving, Coventry paid nearly pounds 2m for the 26-year-old last October. He has scored a few goals, notably one against Taylor's Watford last weekend, but the call-up remains a surprise. However, as Keegan pointed out, six months before the 1966 World Cup Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst were still uncapped.


(for the Euro 2000 play-offs against Scotland on 13 and 17 November):

Seaman (Arsenal)

Martyn (Leeds)

Walker (Tottenham)

Campbell (Tottenham)

Adams (Arsenal)

Keown (Arsenal)

Southgate (Aston Villa)

R Ferdinand (West Ham) Froggatt (Coventry)

Sinclair (West Ham)

P Neville (Manchester Utd)

Guppy (Leicester)

Ince (Middlesbrough)

Wise (Chelsea)

Redknapp (Liverpool)

Parlour (Arsenal)

Beckham (Manchester Utd)

Scholes (Manchester Utd)

McManaman (Liverpool)

Heskey (Leicester)

Shearer (Newcastle)

Phillips (Sunderland)

Owen (Liverpool)

Cole (Manchester Utd)