Football: McManaman wins the old left vote

Tim Collings says Liverpool's flyer can plug an awkward hole

CALL IT what you will, outside-left, left-wing or left midfield, filling the port flank of the England team has been a recurrent problem for a series of England managers. Down three decades and more since Sir Alf Ramsey dispensed with old-fashioned raiders in his "wingless wonders" of 1966, we have seen a series of square, rectangular, triangular and various other-shaped pegs forced into the round hole ideally reserved for a genuine high-class No 11.

At various times, these have included Stan Bowles, Tony Currie and Trevor Brooking being asked to "provide the width on the left" while a stream of more natural left-flankers came and went without truly stamping their authority on the position. Alan Devonshire, Graham Rix, Steve Hodge, Mark Walters, John Salako, Andy Sinton, Tony Daley, Lee Sharpe and Chris Waddle are just some of those, like Alan Hinton and Bobby Tambling in earlier times, who found the job such an elusive one to fill at international level. Not since John Barnes was a regular at the peak of his powers (Waddle, for some reason, was always more effective on the right) have England had the conundrum solved.

Even Bobby Charlton was asked to do the job in his early career. That he did his left-wing duties with great effect was a compliment to both his talent and his application, as well as an example of what such focused determination can achieve, if applied in the same vein, for others, like Steve McManaman.

Overlooked by Gerard Houllier but recalled by Kevin Keegan for the England squad to meet Poland next Saturday, the 27-year-old Liverpool forward has abundant dribbling skills, an eye for goal, no lack of versatility, and, at his best, the panache to lift spectators from their seats; but, essentially, he is a right-footed player. For Keegan, who believes wing- play and natural width on both flanks are essential services for the success of his centre-forward and captain Alan Shearer, this detail is one that McManaman's all-round game can overcome - as he demonstrated under Terry Venables at Euro 96 - if he, in turn, receives the ball early and in good positions. His selection, however, does confirm the dearth of naturally left-sided English forwards.

An impending transfer to Real Madrid is also an incentive to McManaman to sparkle and add substantially to the 22 caps he has gained so far in an injury-hit career which has promised far more than it has realised. The Spanish club, knocked out of the European Champions' League in Kiev on Wednesday, need a boost as much as England do, and it may prove to be more than ironic that it is Keegan's old strike partner John Toshack who now rules at the Bernabeu. For both, it may be providential if Macca rides again.

Given McManaman's inclination to cut in and carry the ball on his right foot, however, it is interesting to note that Keegan has included two left-footed wing-backs in Graeme Le Saux and Andy Hinchcliffe (in a role that Roberto Carlos has enjoyed for Madrid).

Their selection suggests width will be an integral part of England's approach under Fulham's manager, just as it was at Newcastle where he brought in Keith Gillespie and David Ginola to supply Shearer's ammunition in a swashbuckling side. Like all genuine No 9s, Shearer has thrived on life at the far post and will hope to do so again with McManaman's assistance if the Liverpudlian is selected.

This week, while all eyes were on the San Siro and Oslo, McManaman was with Liverpool in France on a trip designed to repair mental and physical wounds for the final Premiership gallop. Having been involved in only two full matches in the last four months, he insists he is fresher than usual for the time of year. "I haven't the first idea if I will play," he said. "But I am more than ready, if the manager wants me." On the evidence available, that is a certainty. Nobody else in Keegan's 24-man squad can attack on the left with such comfort.

What irony, then, that the Premiership's finest sight this season is a natural two-footed, old-fashioned left-winger with a penchant for crossing on the run and driving in long-range shots. David Ginola will be in action for Tottenham against Leicester this afternoon at Wembley where Steve Guppy, one of the young pretenders for the left flank, will have a chance to show that Keegan was wrong to release him at Newcastle. The truth, however, is that it is quality of a higher vein that is required - Ryan Giggs at Manchester United or Marc Overmars at Arsenal, who are big reasons for their clubs respective positions in the Premiership.

Until Guppy, or someone else, can stand alongside them, and Ginola, Keegan is right to go left with McManaman.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
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: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn