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.

News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin