Football: Keegan baffles with his tactics

BEING A modern city-state Luxembourg's part-time footballers are accountants, bankers and computer code-breakers rather than butchers, bakers and candlestick- makers but they are still part-timers and, as such, should be brushed aside by England's highly paid professionals at Wembley this afternoon.

Which is something of a blessing, because better opponents might expose Kevin Keegan's fifth England team as unbalanced and ill-equipped for the serious business of qualifying for the European Championship finals.

There are no complaints about the individuals. They are all good players, including the debutant, Kieron Dyer, who is rewarded for being the sole bright spark in Newcastle's dark and stormy season. The doubt is over their arrangement.

With Luxembourg planning to defend deep and in depth, the area in front of their penalty box is likely to be highly congested. Width will be crucial to breaking them down, both in the provision of crosses and switching the play. So Keegan has moved the best crosser of the ball in the country, David Beckham, to central midfield. In his stead, on the right, is Steve McManaman, a good dribbler but a poor crosser with either foot and a player who likes to drift inside. On the left is Ray Parlour, a right- footed player who has never played on the left wing nor, previously, started for England.

"I asked [Parlour] a question: Would he play left side for me?" Keegan said yesterday. "I said if he didn't want to I was still going to play him. I would have asked Macca [McManaman] to play that side. He said: `Yeah, I'll play. I haven't played there, but I'll give it a shot'."

Never mind the proviso that he would still play: this was an offer Parlour, with just three brief substitute appearances, could hardly refuse even if Keegan had said, earlier this week: "There's a feeling Ray Parlour should be given a chance in his best position."

Keegan offered succour yesterday when he added: "I think he understands that someone is going to have to grasp that position and it might not be a left-footed player. It might be Ray Parlour."

Meanwhile, Steve Guppy, the best English-qualified left-winger in the country, the provider of more crosses than anyone in the Premiership last season, sits at home in Leicester wondering what he has to do get a chance. His brief stay at St James' Park - he was signed and sold by Keegan - must have been a bad one.

Parlour is not a regular crosser even from the right; Arsenal's style does not require it. But, never fear, if Parlour does not provide there is always Stuart Pearce charging up on the overlap.

Yes, really. Pearce may have moved to central defence three years ago because he felt he no longer had the legs to be a conventional left-back but, said Keegan: "If we're getting possession, and we're getting really pushed up, [Pearce] can get on the outside of Ray Parlour. He's quite capable of doing that, even at 37."

Maybe. But only because he will not have to do much defending. Dyer, 17 years his junior and bursting with energy, is a different case and his selection is a good one. By starting so deep he should get more space than his team-mates and be able to make things happen further forward, just as Rio Ferdinand did in Luxembourg.

England won that match 3-0, but only after the Luxembourgers missed a penalty at 0-1. Beckham played in central midfield that night but did little except acquire a silly booking that still haunts him. Like David Batty, Alan Shearer and Robbie Fowler, he will miss the vital match in Poland on Wednesday if booked again.

After 23 caps, 20 from the start, Beckham is yet to consistently produce the form for England he does for Manchester United. This, said Keegan, was another chance to do so. "He still has things to prove but he's now putting in some very, very mature performances for Man United, drifting inside and giving us a little glimpse of what he could be like in there. Now he has a chance to go and do it. I can see him proving that is where he belongs and, maybe, making Alex [Ferguson] look at it as well."

Michael Owen will start on the substitutes' bench but, with Poland in mind, is expected to be given a run at some stage. It ought, by then, simply to be a matter of how many. Luxembourg are better organised than on their last Wembley appearance in 1982 when Bobby Robson, today's guest of honour, was in charge. They lost 9-0 then but are still a poor side, having lost all five qualifying ties to date. Any English eleven, in any formation, should be good enough to win but the margin may be nearer one than nine.

Dyer's delight, page 30; more football, pages 29-31

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific