Football: Healed Anderton set to win World Cup place

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The Independent Online
THE gnarled old veteran who always made the most of his talent bit the dust. The lazy genius, who may now never fulfil his, went too. So did a clutch of international innocents, a novice and a former golden boy.

So read the casualty list as Glenn Hoddle began culling his World Cup hopefuls yesterday. The dreamers are down to 30, leaving another eight to be axed before Hoddle names his final 22 in 20 days' time.

The seven who can now start planning their summer holidays are Stuart Pearce, rejected after 76 caps; Matt Le Tissier, discarded despite a hat- trick for the B team last month; the uncapped trio of Ray Parlour, Dominic Matteo and Kevin Pressman; Andy Cole; and Nick Barmby, the man who scored England's first goal under Hoddle.

"Sicknote", however, did make it. Indeed, to judge from Hoddle's enthusiastic comments about him, Darren Anderton, who has visited Eileen Drewery, Hoddle's faith healer mentor during his three years of injury problems, is likely to make the final cut as well. "Darren's a talented player," said Hoddle. "He plays with his head up, plays first-time football. In international football you've got to have vision and this lad has."

Hoddle then implicitly criticised Terry Venables for playing Anderton in Euro'96 when, Hoddle said, "he needed to have rested. He was overloaded in the amount of games he had, although that was Terry's decision.

"I wanted to give him the best possible chance to get fit and I'm pleased he has. He's going to get better and better and we've got some football still up our sleeve to allow him to do that. He's having to play within himself a bit at the moment but that will stop when he gets used to a match tempo and his confidence back. Hopefully, his best form will come in the coming weeks."

Anderton, Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand, Jamie Redknapp and Paul Gascoigne will all have to prove their fitness in England's final warm-ups, the home friendly with Saudi Arabia on 23 May and the Casablanca double-header against Morocco and Belgium four and six days later.

The most surprising omission is that of Le Tissier, a Hoddle favourite who looked to have played himself back into contention against Russia B. His subsequent failure even to be considered in the 30 would appear to justify Chris Sutton's refusal to play in a B match, but Hoddle countered that by pointing to Paul Merson's promotion after such a game.

He then said of Le Tissier: "He was very close but he has not quite done enough. I saw him [against Spurs] on Sunday and he did some wonderful things. Then, around about the 60-minute mark, it didn't happen for him. He has to improve on a lot of things that will make him last 90 minutes, to produce what he can. That's something Darren has over him."

Thus did Hoddle, a man whose own international career was blighted by the continual criticism of his work-rate, consign Le Tissier's international career to history after just eight appearances, only one of which lasted 90 minutes. At 29 Le Tissier is unlikely either to make the next World Cup or change his game and lifestyle.

Hoddle's criticism does not quite square with Le Tissier scoring twice and hitting the post against an admittedly weak Russia B side in the last five minutes, nor the number of late goals he scores for Southampton. However, he has also been regularly substituted by his club this season and, Hoddle said, he lacks Anderton's ability to play in a variety of positions as well as his natural fitness. Since the same criticisms could also be made of Gascoigne, Hoddle clearly decided there was room for only one enigma in the party.

Anderton's re-emergence also spelt the end for Parlour who, like Matteo and Cole, was hindered by missing planned appearances through injury. Cole, who scored 25 goals this season, said: "I don't know what more I could have done. I'd be lying if I didn't say that my form over the course of the season didn't warrant an inclusion but that is not my decision."

Pressman's omission was expected once other goalkeepers regained fitness, while Barmby's late return to form came too late. Pearce, with Gascoigne the only current England player with World Cup experience, had read the runes.

"When I was left out in February he told me he was worried about my injury situation," Pearce said. "I knew then that he'd given up on me. I was in the last squad, but basically anyone who was fit and could possibly be available was. It didn't come as any surprise to be left out of this one. I'm extremely disappointed but I was expecting it."

England's 30-man squad

For friendly against Saudi Arabia at Wembley on 23 May and Hassan II International Cup games with Morocco on 27 May and Belgium on 29 May in Casablanca:

Seaman (Arsenal) Walker (Spurs)

Martyn (Leeds) Flowers (Blackburn) G Neville (Man Utd) P Neville (Man Utd) Southgate (A Villa) Adams (Arsenal) Keown (Arsenal) Campbell (Spurs) Le Saux (Chelsea) Hinchcliffe (Sheff W) R Ferdinand (W Ham) Beckham (Man Utd) Ince (Liverpool) Lee (Newcastle) Gascoigne (M'bro) Batty (Newcastle) Butt (Man Utd) Redknapp (Liverpool) Scholes (Man Utd) Anderton (Tottenham) Merson (M'bro) McManaman (L'pool) Shearer (Newcastle) Sheringham (Man U) Owen (Liverpool) Dublin (Coventry) Wright (Arsenal) L Ferdinand (Spurs)