Football: Keegan tries to console unlucky Fowler: Unjustified sending-off for dissent will not affect Under-21 player's future prospects

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

KEVIN KEEGAN has reassured Robbie Fowler that he has a big international future, despite his sending-off for England Under- 21s, by recalling: 'It happend to me, too.'

The Liverpool teenager was upset after being dismissed for alleged dissent in the final minutes of the 3-1 win over Austria in Kapfenberg on Tuesday night.

Keegan admitted that he knew exactly how low Fowler was feeling after going through a near- identical experience at the beginning of his international career.

'It happend to me when I was playing for the Under-23s against East Germany in Magdeburg in 1972,' Keegan said. 'I'd been getting no protection from the referee, just like Robbie, although I think my reaction was a lot worse than his.

'But it didn't really harm my England prospects and I'm sure it won't affect Robbie's either because he really is a terrific talent. I'm not saying he shouldn't worry about what happend, and I know it's never a nice thing for a player, but Robbie was absolutely brilliant right the way through training this week.

'If I had to pick out the one who impressed me most this week, and there were great performances from Sol Campbell, David Unsworth and Jamie Redknapp as well, it's got to be Robbie. Even their coach Bruno Petzi came up to me after training and said the same thing.'

Keegan's words will have been of consolation for the 19-year-old Fowler, who still seemed dazed by the fate he had suffered at the hands of the inconsistent Russian referee Andrej Boutenko.

'I didn't do anything to deserve being sent off,' Fowler said. 'I got another whack from their player - I could show you the bruise on my leg to prove it - and if I said anything it was to the player not the ref.

'The player had done me twice before and I just put up three fingers to say it was the third time. I didn't say anything to the referee and I still don't understand why he did it.

'He just showed me the yellow card and then turned round again and showed me the red one. I couldn't believe it. I just feel I've let people down but I also feel I didn't deserve it.'

Brian Flynn, who saw his Wales side slide to defeat against Moldova in their opening European Under- 21 Championship match, predicted: 'They'll learn from that.'

Flynn's team were beaten 1-0 by technically superior and faster opponents, who shrugged off the physical and ill-disciplined Welsh approach to register a deserved victory.

'It was very much a learning experience,' Flynn said. 'The players will have learnt how to deal with other players feigning injury for long parts of the game.

'They'll also have learned how to have controlled aggression and how, when we have not got the ball, to stop the other team from playing, which we did not do in the first half.

'The only good thing about our first-half performance was that we stayed in the game. There were more positive things in the second half and I thought we deserved to draw, but I don't think we did enough to win.'

After being restricted to one header before the break Wales could have snatched a draw in the final stages. The Liverpool striker Lee Jones, one of four Welsh players booked, was the chief culprit. He wasted a great opportunity in the final seconds, after having seen a goal disallowed for offside.

(Photograph omitted)