Football: Gower's glory on main stage: Meanwhile back at Wembley, the star turns of tomorrow taste the international spotlight

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The Independent Online
England Under-153

Gower 5, 11, Wilson 42

Switzerland Under-150

Attendance: 12,490

ANYTHING that grown-ups can do, the kids can do better. Three times better in fact as the England Under-15 team brushed aside Switzerland at Wembley yesterday, thus helping to puff a little more air into the balloon of optimism floating over the domestic game.

But as with last Wednesday, this was a result that needs to be put into perspective. At this level England are almost invariably bigger, stronger, better organised and tactically more advanced than their peers from other countries, and the gap between the teams here was vast.

It is what happens to England players in the years that follow that seems to matter. Having reached such a high level so relatively quickly, further progress gets harder and harder to make. More gradual development perhaps has something to be said for it. After all, only one of the adult versions of these teams will be at this year's World Cup, and it isn't England.

It was billed as a schools international, but England played with a mature accomplishment that belied their years. About the Swiss, however, there was a touching naivety. Headers and tackling weren't their scene. Even the ball looked big at their feet, let alone Wembley.

The game was over as a contest within 11 minutes, by when England were leading 2-0. Both goals were scored by Mark Gower, a midfielder on Tottenham's books with a David Platt- like eye for chances, and an impressive ability to take them.

Gower's first was a cracker. He began the move with a measured pass down the right to Michael Branch; he slipped past what amounted to a Swiss challenge and crossed low to the near post. Gower, who had kept running into the danger area, met the ball with a beautiful shot high into the net.

England's second owed much to their best player, the left-winger from Sheffield Wednesday Mark Platts. Gower picked up Platts' cross and struck a ferocious shot which the Swiss goalkeeper, Thierry Bally, did amazingly well to block. But from the rebound Gower slipped the ball in.

It took the Swiss 35 minutes just to get a shot in, a speculative effort from a distance. But they got the ball sufficiently near the home penalty area for John Curtis, the England captain and centre-back, to show what a thoughtful and sensible defender he is. Curtis has been signed by the Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Everton's Branch, another youngster of whom much was expected after scoring four goals in two games for England this season, had to settle for an unproductive day.

Mark Wilson made it three a couple of minutes into the second half after some nice work by John Marshall, and there would have been many more but for the brilliance of Bally and England's profligacy in front of goal. They could have done with stiffer opposition. Still, they might as well enjoy it while they can.

ENGLAND UNDER-15: L Weaver (Barnet, unattached); N Clement (Solihull SFA, unatttached), J Curtis (Nuneaton & Man Utd), T Culshaw (Liverpool & Liverpool), M Gower (Havering & Tottenham), M Branch (Liverpool & Everton), M Wilson (Scunthorpe & Man Utd), J Marshall (Bournemouth & Portsmouth), M Platts (Sheffield & Sheff Wed), L Staton (Worksop & Retford, unattached), M Perry (Ealing & QPR).

SWITZERLAND UNDER-15: T Bally (Lancy-Sport); P Eugster (Herisau), P Nappa (Ascona), F Page (FC Lugano), S Keller (Grasshopper-Club), R Friedly (Kerzers), I Wenger (Lugano), F Magro (Zurich), E Rezzonico (Lugano), R Tschabold (Durrenast), N Pietrafesa (Balzers).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

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