Football: Hoddle's fingers crossed for England all-clear

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The Independent Online
Glenn Hoddle yesterday selected the 24 footballers on which England's World Cup destiny will depend in 12 days' time.

However, success for the England coach against Italy in Rome hangs on having a fully fit squad, which, as Glenn Moore points out, cannot be guaranteed.

Over the next six days we will discover whether Glenn Hoddle would have met the chief criterion to be one of Napoleon's generals. During that time most of the players he named yesterday for England's World Cup qualifier against Italy will play two matches for their clubs. Hoddle will be lucky if they emerge unscathed for the game in Rome on 11 October.

"If I can keep these 24 together I will feel very positive about the match with Italy," the England coach said. "In the past we have had withdrawals, it would be nice if they were all fit."

Having lost Alan Shearer to long-term injury, England, who need a point to ensure qualification for next year's World Cup, can ill afford withdrawals. Several players - Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Fowler, Les Ferdinand, Tony Adams and the recalled Andy Hinchcliffe - are currently at that vulnerable stage of still regaining full match fitness.

Hoddle was unlucky against Italy at home in February. Adams, Sheringham, David Seaman, Paul Gascoigne, Phil Neville and Hinchcliffe were absent, while Shearer was not match sharp. Though he refused to contemplate what might have been if they had been fit, Hoddle did add, wistfully: "There still wasn't much between the sides."

Adams, Hinchcliffe and Fowler are among five additions to the squad who beat Moldova at Wembley last month. Paul Ince returns from suspension, while Steve McManaman is back after being left out.

Hoddle paid tribute to McManaman's subsequent "magnificent" goals against Celtic and Aston Villa, but he was hardly effusive in his overall praise.

"Leaving him out perhaps made him reflect a bit. He has taken it the right way and I have got the response I want," Hoddle said. "There is an urgency to his game that wasn't there earlier in the season. He is a talented player and when he is playing at his best is among the best. His form is progressing but I still feel there is a bit of his game to come back."

That McManaman should have been dropped last time, and Stan Collymore retained on this occasion, suggests inconsistency. It seems that Hoddle believes a carrot works best on the out-of-touch Villa forward, while McManaman needs a stick.

"He's not pulling up any trees as he and Brian [Little, the Villa manager] would like but I can see things in Stan which might suit international football," Hoddle said.

He is not the first, nor will he be the last to be so seduced. Collymore has enormous talent but too often it looks as if he has copied to extremes Fowler's knack of sometimes doing the right thing by standing still while everyone else moves around you.

"A couple of goals would do him good," Hoddle said. "If Stan can get back to how he was at Forest, and I think he still has that in him, we have got an international footballer."

From the last squad Rio Ferdinand and Emile Heskey have been omitted so that they can continue their development against the Italian Under- 21s.

Stuart Ripley is absent injured as is Stuart Pearce, which partly accounts for Hinchcliffe's return after injury.

"He is not yet at the top of his game but there is a shortage of left- sided players and he was excellent for us before his injury," Hoddle said.

Much of this is incidental as, assuming there are no injuries, Hinchcliffe, Collymore, Fowler or McManaman are unlikely to start in Rome -but that is a big assumption. "I'm looking forward to it," Hoddle said. Let us hope he feels the same way next week.

england squad

Name Club Age 1-11 Sub Caps Goals

Seaman Arsenal 34 34 3 37 -

Martyn Leeds 31 3 1 4 -

Walker Tottenham 25 1 2 3 -

G Neville Man Utd 22 21 2 23 -

P Neville Man Utd 20 6 1 7 -

Le Saux Chelsea 28 19 1 20 1

Adams Arsenal 30 47 - 47 4

Southgate Aston Villa 27 17 3 20 -

Pallister Man Utd 32 20 2 22 -

Campbell Tottenham 23 7 3 10 -

Ince Liverpool 29 32 1 33 2

Gascoigne Rangers 30 42 10 52 10

Name Club Age 1-11 Sub Caps Goals

Hinchcliffe Everton 28 3 - 3 -

Beckham Man Utd 22 9 1 10 -

Batty Newcastle 28 20 6 26 -

Butt Man Utd 22 - 3 3 -

Lee Newcastle 31 9 4 13 2

Scholes Man Utd 22 3 1 4 2

Sheringham Man Utd 31 22 6 28 8

McManaman Liverpool 25 14 4 18 -

Ferdinand Tottenham 30 12 2 14 5

Fowler Liverpool 22 2 4 6 1

Wright Arsenal 33 14 14 28 9

Collymore Aston Villa 26 1 2 3 -