KEVIN KEEGAN took his first steps along the international management road yesterday by making it clear he would follow the principles which have helped propel his Newcastle side to the Premiership summit.
The St James' Park manager, 'delighted and thrilled' to have been asked by Terry Venables to stand in for the unavailable Dave Sexton as manager of the England Under-21 side, flew out for today's game against Austria in Kapfenberg promising that attacking football would be the order of the day.
'Football should be fun and I just want the players to enjoy it,' declared Keegan, whose preparations have been hampered by the withdrawal of the wingers, Steve Froggatt and Trevor Sinclair. Millwall's Ben Thatcher has been drafted in. He added: 'We've got some of the most exciting young players this country has had in a long, long time. Lads like Robbie Fowler, Nick Barmby and Julian Joachim, and I'm really looking forward to training with them.
'When I look at the names on the squad list I am excited and I want to make it a lot of fun.
'It's players who decide how you play, not coaches, but when you've got as many exciting forwards as we have you've got to plan to use them and that's what I hope to do.'
Keegan revealed he had spoken at length to Sexton about the lessons drawn from last month's opening European Under-21 Championships qualifier, a goalless draw with Portugal at Leicester.
'Dave's told me a lot of what he thinks about the players and where their best positions might be. I am just keeping things right for him when he's ready to return.
'I want the players to express themselves. We should be the best in the world at this level because our youngsters are more forward than those in Europe and are playing at a higher level.'
Wales' youngsters will pave the way for their senior counterparts when they begin their European Under-21 championship campaign in Moldova today.
The Under-21s were expected to play in Calarasi - more than 20 miles away from the capital - but the game has been switched to the venue for the senior match tomorrow, the 25,000 capacity Republican stadium in Kishinev.
Brian Flynn, Wales under-21 manager, said: 'The switch is good news as it means we won't have to travel so far.' Flynn, like his senior counterpart Mike Smith, was forced into several changes to his squad, with four players out through injury.
Crewe's Robbie Savage, Hereford's Gareth Davies, Tottenham's Gareth Knott and Terry Evans of Cardiff replace Robert Edwards (Bristol City), Deryn Brace (Wrexham), Gareth Taylor (Bristol Rovers) and Ryan Jones (Sheffield Wednesday).
Diego Maradona made a losing start to his new career as a coach when Deportivo Mandiyu lost 2-1 at home to Rosario Central. Maradona, who became joint coach of the team last week, watched yesterday's match from the stands. Under Argentine rules he is not allowed to join his partner Carlos Fren on the bench as he does not have a coaching certificate.