Football: Reformed Parlour wins England reward

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The Independent Online
FACED with the need to break the monotony of a pre-match training camp, many a manager has resorted to taking his players to the cinema. Scotland's Craig Brown memorably did so with "Braveheart".

Should Glenn Hoddle decide to follow suit during England's sojourn at Bisham Abbey next weekend there can be only one choice, "Good Will Hunting". The story of a wayward talent who reforms and flourishes just as it appears he is to waste his life's potential should strike as much a chord with England as Mel Gibson did with the Scots.

Yesterday Hoddle, who relishes the Robin Williams role of guiding mentor, rewarded the latest penitent when he called up Ray Parlour for the 25 March friendly with Switzerland. The Arsenal midfielder is joined by former drinking partner and team-mate Paul Merson who, having played well for the B team last month, is expected to start the Berne friendly.

Tony Adams is also aboard, but one bad boy turned good (most of the time, anyway) is missing, Paul Gascoigne. This, Hoddle stressed, is because he is injured, not as a result of fresh allegations of assault which the player strenuously denies. Gascoigne, who has completed 90 minutes only once in 1998, spoke to Hoddle yesterday morning and told him that he was still doing only light jogging.

"He was desperate to start playing again, but I told him the important thing was not to come back too early, as he has done in the past, and get another problem," Hoddle said. "I think he was pleased to hear that." Gascoigne has been the subject of recent transfer speculation but Hoddle said he did not mind who he played for as long as he was playing regularly.

Parlour, whose bright performance in the recent B international against Chile was typical of his impressive season, looked an exciting talent when he first broke into the Arsenal team six seasons ago, but the restrictions placed on his game by George Graham and an over-enthusiastic social life hampered his development. Having featured, with Adams, in the tabloids for a notorious "booze-and-birds" escapade, his lowest point came when he was arrested in Hong Kong for drunkenly assaulting a taxi driver on an end-of-season tour.

However, spurred by the examples of Merson and Adams, and by fatherhood, he has cleaned up his behaviour. This, together with the advent of Arsene Wenger at Highbury, has enabled him to become a key member of the Double- chasing side, with his penetrative running on the right flank balancing Marc Overmars on the Arsenal left.

"A lot of his habits have changed in the last 18 months," Hoddle said. "With his improved fitness he has put on a yard of pace. He has become a good example to people. There are so many other players, if they got their mind and body right, who knows what they could achieve?"

One who has is Merson - "an amazing story which gives you heart," Hoddle said. "He has put it right, he is a changed person and player and he is getting the rewards. Sometimes you have to reach the bottom before you can rise."

Hoddle pointedly said that Merson's inclusion "showed how important the B match was". As expected, Chris Sutton, who refused to play in that game, has been omitted from both senior and Under-21 squads. Five over-age players can play in the latter match and they will include Jamie Redknapp as a sweeper.

There is one other uncapped player in the senior party, Kevin Pressman, the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper. While he is a useful keeper, his inclusion is indicative of the dearth of English No 1s in the Premiership. The only other options for Hoddle were David Watson of Barnsley, Crystal Palace's Kevin Miller, or 40-year-old Steve Ogrizovic of Coventry.

The 26-man squad is expected to be significantly reduced by withdrawals, notably from Manchester United, who have seven representatives, following this week's European and FA Cup games.

Switzerland have picked two English-based players, Blackburn's Stephane Henchoz and Ramon Vega of Tottenham. The first squad picked by new manager Gilbert Gress also includes Stephane Chapuisat, Ciriaco Sforza and Kubilay Turkyilmaz.

ENGLAND SQUAD (Friendly v Switzerland, Berne, 25 March): Martyn (Leeds Utd), Flowers (Blackburn Rovers), Pressman (Sheffield Wed), Southgate (Aston Villa), G Neville (Man Utd), P Neville (Man Utd), Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur), Adams (Arsenal), Keown (Arsenal), Hinchcliffe (Sheffield Wed), Le Saux (Chelsea), R Ferdinand (West Ham), Ince (Liverpool), Parlour (Arsenal), Scholes (Man Utd), Beckham (Man Utd), Batty (Newcastle Utd), Butt (Man Utd), Lee (Newcastle Utd), McManaman (Liverpool), Sheringham (Man Utd), Cole (Man Utd), Shearer (Newcastle Utd), Dublin (Coventry City), Owen (Liverpool), Merson (Middlesbrough).

SWITZERLAND SQUAD: Corminboeuf (Neuchatel), Zuberbuhler (Grasshoppers), Fournier (Servette), Henchoz (Blackburn Rovers), Jeanneret (Neuchatel), Vogel (Grasshoppers), Vega (Tottenham Hotspur), Wolf (Sion), Sforza (Kaiserslautern), Lonfat (Sion), Muller (Servette), Wicky (Werder Bremen), Yakin (VfB Stuttgart), Chapuisat (Borussia Dortmund), Grassi (Cannes), Turkyilmaz (Grasshoppers), Kunz (Werder Bremen), Sesa (Servette).

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