Football: Oldies show the beauty of having brains on your side: Henry Winter on the thirtysomethings whose pool of experience proved to be invaluable

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND have come of age. Doubts about an international player's capabilities on entering his fourth decade were ridiculed again at Wembley last night. The spine of England's side, from the 31-year-olds, Steve Bould and Kevin Richardson, to Peter Beardsley, 33 going on 23 in attack, proved too strong for the Greeks, who know a thing or two about revering the ancients.

The Dad's Army debate should have been settled in the thirty-somethings' favour by Beardsley's spirited performance against Denmark. Even a full-page programme picture of David Gower resplendent in the national football strip appeared in tune with Terry Venables's ageless regime. Grey hairs are irrelevant if the grey cells remain untouched.

Beardsley emphasised the point with a relentless hunger for possession which deservedly brought the Newcastle striker a ninth international goal and praise from Venables who commended his 'good movement' up front.

While Beardsley shone, Bould and Richardson contributed solid debuts. 'They did themselves a lot of good,' the England coach added, 'they played the same game for us as they do for their clubs and fitted well into the pattern we are trying to achieve.'

Bould's case has still to be proven against more threatening opposition but Richardson, understudying admirably for Paul Ince in the role of anchor man, appeared totally at ease with the elevated surroundings. His main duty was scrapping for possession, a task he filled with a series of diving tackles which were timed to perfection on Wembley's sodden soil.

The Aston Villa captain's secondary assignment was to deliver the ball forward, which he achieved most notably through a series of fine right-footed passes towards Alan Shearer. The Greek chants of 'Hellas' must have sounded like the Holte End in full cry chorusing 'Villa'.

When Richardson was informed of his England call-up, he initially assumed it was a wind-up. Bould was similarly shocked. The Arsenal centre- half, as vital to their '91 championship side as Richardson was to the Gunners' '89 title-winners, is certainly worth another look, even if he never overtakes Gary Pallister.

With his club-mate, Tony Adams, Bould formed a familiar obstacle, the Greeks continually marooned in a sea of maroon or being caught offside. At one point the right arms of Adams and Bould were going up like schoolboys competing in a quiz. Last night England, young and old, had all the answers.