Football: McManaman free to prove point

A STADIUM full of ghosts will this evening be infused with the spirit of youth. By design as well as necessity Kevin Keegan, for his second match as England coach, has chosen a team which could make the Nep Stadium the launchpad for several international careers. Two players, Wes Brown of Manchester United and Kevin Phillips of Sunderland, will win their first caps while a clutch of others have opportunities to grasp.

Prime among these is Steve McManaman, who has been given "a free role" by Keegan. After 23 largely disappointing England appearances, especially in the last match against Poland, McManaman is running out of chances to prove he can impose himself at this level. Others looking to seize the moment will be international novices Rio Ferdinand, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Tim Sherwood.

Behind them David Seaman, winning his 50th international cap, will form the base of a spine which runs through Martin Keown and David Batty to Alan Shearer. The mix of youth and experience ought to be enough for England to avoid losing to a Hungarian side struggling to live up to a glorious past.

However, while keen to win, Keegan is more interested in seeing individuals produce performances that would ensure them a place in the team for the brace of Euro 2000 qualifiers to be played in June. "Opportunity" has been the coach's theme this week and the approach fits in perfectly with the local mood. The prime minister is 35 years old and his government is prepared to rebuild Hungarian football by underwriting a joint bid with Austria to stage the 2004 European Championship.

After a decade of failure there is also progress on the pitch. While it is impossible to enter the great bowl of the Nep Stadium without thinking of the great Hungarian team of Ferenc Puskas and Nandor Hidegkuti who beat England 7-1 here 45 years ago, the current squad has only one player over 30 and is mainly composed of 25- year-olds.

Although under Bertalan Bicskei, the 10th coach this decade, they have lost once in 12 matches, Hungary trail Portugal and Romania in their Euro 2000 qualifying group. Their most prominent players are Gabor Kiraly, the goalkeeper, who is said to be interesting Arsenal, and the playmaker Bela Illes.

Keegan's team should have enough tacklers in midfield to swamp Illes but there could be problems on the flanks, where he expects Hungary to play with two wide men. This could put considerable pressure on Brown and Neville, who will also be expected to provide width for the England attack. Given that neither players are regulars at club level their brief is a tough one, particularly for Brown whose recent return to the first team has been in central defence.

"He is good enough to play in a variety of positions," said Keegan of the 20-year-old who breaks Gary Neville's record as England's least-experienced cap. Brown has only played 16 first-team matches for United, four of them as substitute, one fewer than Neville when he made his debut in 1995. Michael Owen, incidentally, had played 26 times for Liverpool when he first played for England.

In midfield, Butt will hope to maintain his fine club form to show he is the natural successor to Paul Ince while Tim Sherwood will seek to build on a promising debut against Poland last month. Keegan hopes they will be supplemented by Rio Ferdinand stepping out from a defence which has three players aged under 23.

The bulk of the creative responsibility will fall on McManaman. Keegan said he has "great faith" in the Liverpool player and that he hopes he has now come to terms with the turmoil surrounding his summer move to Real Madrid. He will certainly never have a better opportunity. A poor crosser, it has always seemed a waste to have his dribbling and shooting ability stuck on the wing and, with Butt, Sherwood and Batty behind him, he should receive plenty of possession.

"Macca has got to be a free spirit," said Keegan. "Ask him to do a specific job and he'll try but it takes so much away from him. The way we are going to play will allow him the freedom to express himself. Any player who can go past people and create things you have to look at, because they are special. I'm also sure he feels he has something to prove at this level."

Despite the friendly status of this international, Keegan expects the opposition to be enthusiastic and will demand the same of his own side. "Every game matters," he said. "Even when we went to a place like Hong Kong at the end of the season and some players could not be bothered I always thought `there are people here who have paid money to watch me'. It is important to perform."

ENGLAND (4-3-1-2): Seaman (Arsenal); Brown (Man Utd), Keown (Arsenal), Ferdinand (West Ham), P Neville (Man Utd); Sherwood (Tottenham), Batty (Leeds), Butt (Man Utd); McManaman (Liverpool); Phillips (Sunderland), Shearer (Newcastle).

HUNGARY (4-3-1-2): Kiraly (Hertha Berlin); Korsos (Gyor ETO), Sebok (Bristol City), Hrutka (Kaiserslautern), Matyus (Ferencvaros); Pisont (Eintracht Frankfurt), Halmai (MTK Budapest), Dardai (Hertha Berlin); Illes (MTK Budapest); Dombi (Debrecen), Korsos (Ujpest).

n England have agreed to donate pounds 50,000 to a Kosovo-related charity, split between the players' pool and the FA.

Phillips pursues dream ending, page 24

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
people

Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
health
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tv
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: Production Planning MRP Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's most progressive and innovativ...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Sales Executives

£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to our clients continuing s...

Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

£15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Internal Sales - Technical Solutions - £26,000 Basic

£26000 per annum: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Southend, Aldershot, Luto...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game