Football: Hoddle's promotion for Parlour

AND THERE we all were thinking David Beckham was to blame for England's elimination. Glenn Hoddle's only enforced change to his squad for the opening European Championship qualifier in Sweden on Saturday week involved the omission yesterday of Les Ferdinand, who did not even play in France. So much for southern bias towards Tottenham.

Puzzling as it may be that Ferdinand can fall out of favour in effectively the space of just two games, it is no more puzzling that Ray Parlour should now be considered good enough to make the England coach's 25-man squad when just three months ago - or in other words two or three games ago - he was deemed unsuitable for a squad of 30.

There seemed to be a touch of the Michael Owens about that one, the England coach delaying unnecessarily the Arsenal midfielder's inclusion after his outstanding performance in last May's FA Cup final, which only confirmed what most people already knew. In fact, according to Hoddle, he has picked him somewhat prematurely. "I said to him at the time of the Switzerland game, which he missed through injury: `If you have another season like you've had then you're going to be in the forefront of my mind - very much so'."

After the start Spurs have made to the season, this must be all that Ferdinand needed to hear. It must have sent shivers down the spine of Sol Campbell and Darren Anderton, who were already concerned that Spurs' poor form might rub off on their own. Ian Walker, the keeper, has already slipped out of the frame.

Hoddle said he had spoken to Ferdinand and told him to set his sights on England's double header in October. "His form has dipped, but if he gets it back there's every chance he can return to the scene," Hoddle said.

Parlour is the only uncapped player as Hoddle, in the main, has stayed faithful to those who did England proud in France. David Beckham, of course, is missing through suspension, as is David Batty for the same reason, although in his case because of a six-match domestic ban. Gary Neville is the only other absentee from the World Cup squad, due to an injury.

Back, too, just two months short of his 35th birthday is Ian Wright, after injury kept him out of the World Cup. "I've gone on record as saying it's not a case of whether they're young enough, or old enough, but whether they're good enough," Hoddle said.

"Our coach came back with a gleaming report of Ian's first game for West Ham. I saw Trevor Sinclair play up front last week and I'd say he's learned something instantly from Wright about positional play. Tony Adams is fitter than he's ever been in his life and playing as well as ever. I've got players at the end of the age scale who I still feel can do a job over the next two years."

He had seen no evidence of mental exhaustion as a result of his players' World Cup exertions, despite comments to the contrary from Alex Ferguson with regards to Paul Scholes' condition, and in fact in terms of physical fitness he thought they looked sharper than the rest. "From my own experience of the player, I know that if there's mental tiredness after a championship it comes about November time."

The England coach refused to be drawn on the question of his England contract, which still has two years to run, or rumours linking him with a return to Spurs as coach. Nor did he bite when asked if "Eileen" would be on the plane for Sweden, a reference to his faith healing friend whom he recently admitted he made the mistake of leaving behind when England left for France. "My backroom staff will be the same as usual," he said. "Nice try."

ENGLAND SQUAD

European Championship qualifier v Sweden, Stockholm, 5 Sept

Seaman (Arsenal), Martyn (Leeds), Flowers (Blackburn), Adams (Arsenal), Campbell (Tottenham), Southgate (Aston Villa), Keown (Arsenal), R Ferdinand (West Ham), Hinchcliffe (Sheffield Wednesday), Anderton (Tottenham), Le Saux (Chelsea), P Neville (Manchester Utd), Parlour (Arsenal), Ince (Liverpool), Lee (Newcastle), McManaman (Liverpool), Butt (Manchester Utd), Merson (Middlesbrough), Redknapp (Liverpool), Scholes (Manchester Utd), Sheringham (Manchester Utd), Shearer (Newcastle), Owen (Liverpool), Wright (West Ham), Dublin (Coventry).

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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