Football: McManaman must destroy the myth

Steve McManaman has been labelled a chronic underachiever. But Glenn Moore finds his competitive nature fired up to win an England place for France 98

STEVE MCMANAMAN strolled casually off flight BY815 at Basle airport yesterday lunchtime, looked up at the grey Swiss sky, then sauntered towards the waiting coach. He looked like a seen-it-all-before holidaymaker rather than a footballer with his World Cup destiny in the balance.

McManaman's body language is as offensive to some as Peter Reid's verbal version. Languid in the extreme, he is the antithesis of the fist-clenched, bawling scrappers beloved by the English game.

Yet watch McManaman closely and his desire, his will-to-win, is evident. His work-rate matches any player in the Premiership, he is always either on the ball or calling for it. His passing is done with a purpose, not for the sake of it and, when the ball is still, he can be seen quietly lifting or bollocking his team-mates.

Frustration is the theme of his career. Locally born, though initially an Everton fan, he has lived through a lean decade at Anfield. In the 1990s they have won just a trophy apiece in the FA and Coca-Cola Cups - scant achievements against Manchester United's dominance.

The story is the same on a personal level. Since his 1994 debut he has appeared 19 times for England but, after appearing to establish himself in Euro 96, has played only four times for Glenn Hoddle and just once in the last 360 days.

There is no guarantee that the 26-year-old will play against Switzerland in Berne tomorrow. It would appear that he and Paul Merson are contesting one place, a belief Hoddle has encouraged rather than dispelled.

He offers fewer clues as to his preference. McManaman, said Hoddle, played "as well as I have ever seen him" last week against Spurs - when he had a floating role behind Michael Owen. But he is also complimentary about Merson and, by pulling him out of Middlesbrough's team on Sunday, would appear to want to play him tomorrow.

Rumours persist that Hoddle is less than enamoured with McManaman because he and Robbie Fowler pulled out of Le Tournoi but McManaman said: "There was never a problem and I want to kill that myth off. I've not spoken to the gaffer [Hoddle] about it, I've never needed to.

"I don't know why there are so many negative vibes about me. I never take anything negatively, I try to look positively at things. I am a very confident person. I could improve for England but I am always aiming for perfection, everyone looks for improvement in themselves.

"I've played twice in a year and we won both games. I'd liked to have played more but I've not got a problem with it. I have something to offer England but there are probably 30 players who can say that. Of course I passionately want to go to the World Cup, it is the greatest tournament there is; you are mixing with the best in the world. You want to test yourself against them.

"The will to win is always there with me. I may not show it as much as other people but the passion is strong. I want to win every game whether against a minnow in the FA Cup, a big League game against Manchester United or an England international. Maybe people say I've underachieved for England but I hope to smash that myth by doing well in the summer."

Hoddle said McManaman's spell as Liverpool captain had helped his football as it enabled him to "see the game differently in taking on more responsibility". Hoddle added: "He has had a good season, scoring goals has given him extra confidence. He has lost a couple of chains and he has been more consistent."

McManaman, whose keen and questioning intelligence has not always been popular with managers, thinks otherwise. "I've always been a talker. I've always tried to help the young lads in our team. It's not something that happened with the armband," he said. "Goalscoring isn't a problem for me. Sometimes they all go in, sometimes they don't. I don't worry about it."

All this is said with a sardonic air. McManaman sometimes gives the impression that he feels these question and answer sessions are beneath him and it is true that such gatherings - there are about a dozen press interrogators - can sometimes pursue a tired agenda. With McManaman it is the "underachiever" line partly because it also applies to his club and partly because, being a model pro who has missed one match in three seasons, there is no "my injury/drugs/drink-hell" line to pursue.

However much he may resent it, such is his and his club's talent it will continue to be raised until Liverpool win the title and he establishes himself at international level.

Tomorrow McManaman will find out if Hoddle, whose fitful international career has many parallels, is prepared to offer him a chance to show that he, at least, can fulfil his potential.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £38,000

£22000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role is a mixture of office...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests