Football: Ince handed three-match England ban

IT HAS long been customary before England games for the coach to be mugged into posing with an appropriate prop. Thus Glenn Hoddle has been snapped with a Mini, for the Italian job in Rome, a sombrero, for Mexico, and a pizza, for Italy at home.

Hoddle, understandably, has been trying to get away from this stereotype which is something of a relief because this afternoon's match against Bulgaria was testing everyone's imagination. With a cheap bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon ruled out ("no alcohol - unless they're sponsors"), a shot with Uncle Bulgaria, the patriarch of the Wombles, was emerging as favourite.

Needless to say it never happened but, should England lose at Wembley today, Hoddle might be looking for a bolthole on Wimbledon Common himself, though not one lined with old newspapers. As yesterday's computer-generated Sun back page picture of Hoddle in a strait-jacket suggested, the knives are out. A fourth defeat in five matches could lead to them being plunged in beyond even Eileen Drewery's reach.

With only two European Championship qualifiers played it would be premature to write England off if they lost but it would leave them with an immense struggle to qualify for the 2000 finals in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Their chances will not be helped by yesterday's decision by Uefa to ban Paul Ince from the March match against Poland as well as Wednesday's game in Luxembourg on top of the automatic suspension from today's game following his dismissal in Sweden.

Victory, by contrast, would reinvigorate an England side who could then be top of group five by Wednesday night. That is the importance of today's match, Hoddle's 26th and, yet again, another to be played with a reshuffled side.

As well as the suspensions to David Beckham and Paul Ince, Hoddle appears to have lost Tony Adams from his ideal side. Though Darren Anderton passed yesterday's fitness test on his thigh injury and is expected to play, Adams failed one on his back and ankle problem.

This is not the problem it might once have been as Gary Neville, Gareth Southgate and Sol Campbell have all been in excellent form and, given Adams' injury problems, may soon be the first-choice defensive trio anyway. It also gives Southgate the chance to fill his preferred central role.

"I'm comfortable playing in any of the three positions but centre is probably my strongest," said Southgate.

Anderton's recovery means Hoddle will not have to take a risk on David Batty's match-fitness and can instead play Rob Lee in Ince's holding role. Jamie Redknapp, Paul Scholes and Graeme Le Saux should make up the midfield quintet.

In attack Michael Owen will partner Alan Shearer with Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright, Paul Merson and Dion Dublin providing contrasting alternatives should they fail to break Bulgaria down.

"Bulgaria's defeat to Poland was not a true reflection of their ability," cautioned Hoddle. "They were experimenting then, this time I expect them to be more like they were in the World Cup, an experienced team with talented, technical players. If you give them time and space they can cause you problems but you can dominate them. One of the ways we can win is by asserting our game on them early on.

"It is not a case of having to win but demanding, of ourselves, that we win. I expect them to defend deep because of Michael Owen's pace and that is something we can exploit, players like Jamie Redknapp are capable of scoring from 20-30 yards if they give him the chance."

So, too, is Hristo Stoichkov and Hoddle will be impressing on his players the need to avoid conceding free-kicks around the box. "They will probably be looking for a draw but that may be one area they think they can win it," he added.

That is something Bulgaria have yet to achieve in six meetings during which England have conceded just one goal. The most recent match, in the build-up to Euro 96, was won with a goal from Les Ferdinand but it is an earlier one Hoddle remembers best.

"It was a foggy night in 1979 and I managed to make one and score one on my international debut," he recalled. "It would stick in any player's mind and it'll always a special night for me, one I'll tell my grandchildren about one day."

We will soon know if today's game will be regarded as fondly. Wembley rose to him in 1979, their reaction today is less easy to predict. "I'll find out whether the public are behind me tomorrow," he said. "The main thing is they support the team like they have done in the past."

They should have no reason not to. Against a Bulgarian side in transition even a weakened England team should be good enough to put the Stockholm debacle behind them.

ENGLAND'S POSSIBLE TEAM

SOUTHGATE

Aston Villa

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone