Football: Scholes an echo of a past era

KEVIN KEEGAN'S understandable commitment to attack was rewarded with the advantage Paul Scholes took to establish himself internationally as an old-fashioned inside forward.

The younger generation of football supporters may not be familiar with a role performed notably for past England teams by Raich Carter, Wilf Mannion, Johnny Haynes and Bobby Charlton, but if Scholes cannot be compared with those illustrious figures his performance on Saturday had the merit of comprehensive involvement.

To fulfil the responsibilities placed on him so vividly that he scored all three England goals reminds some of us that his qualities of alertness, industry, imagination and eagerness to seek goal-scoring opportunities were once commonplace in English football.

That Scholes can never be sure of selection by Manchester United testifies to the depth of talent at Old Trafford and tactical refinements employed by Alex Ferguson, but it also points to changes in the game that have served to suppress, even in Brazil, the advancement of specific midfield influences.

Verve and an eye for goal should serve to bring Scholes into permanent consideration for the England team but even more might be obtained from him if the modern system of development did not discourage the advancement of genuine playmakers. So much damage was done in Britain by crass support for the long ball that the species was in danger of extinction. The result is that, despite severely reduced mobility, Paul Gascoigne is still considered as an England midfielder.

In Scholes' keenness to get about the field, his competitiveness and supporting surges, there is an echo of the past but it falls short of completeness - the range of his passing is limited - and does not compensate for the absence of intelligent construction and variations in tempo. Tim Sherwood brought more to England's midfield that can now be expected from David Batty and Paul Ince but he is no Gascoigne.

The notion that David Beckham could be the fulcrum of play is undermined by his lack of pace, a reliable trick with which to make space, wayward perception and the importance of his quite re- markable crossing.

It was ironic that Scholes should be one of the two culprits when slack defending enabled Poland to get back into the game. This was apparently of little concern to Keegan, who smilingly conceded that it would be thought typical of his teams.

The urgency of Keegan's task as temporary manager puts a terrible strain on the language of urgency. Are they "big" games, or just "important" games or, heaven help us, "must games"? Now, where even the popular prints and television may fear to tread comes a lion-hearted connoisseur of football drama to explore the unknown. "All I wanted was a win," Keegan said after the game.

Obviously the situation was crucial because even a draw would have considerably lengthened the odds against England qualifying for next year's European Championship finals, but any problems in selection were removed by the injury list.

It was indeed a "must" game and Keegan approached it with a policy based on the traditional virtues of English football. When, after only a few minutes, David Seaman took the ball into space emptied of opponents and launched a long kick at Poland's penalty area you had a pretty good idea of what England had in mind.

Keegan's predecessors, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables, may have winced at the rejection of subtlety this implied but there are plenty of people in English football who stand firm in their belief that the national team would benefit from more directness. The anxiety caused in the Poland defence by early long passes and centres will have pleased them.

There remains unquestionably a conflict in attitude that survives the wholesale introduction ofFINAL players, which Saturday's match did nothing to resolve.

Supposing that Keegan's intention is to strike a sensible balance, his first game left questions to be answered although, of course, his enthusiasm was infectious, affecting the audience as much as the players.

However, caution is advisable. The high-flying start Keegan has made must be set against the impression that the Poles had forgotten the lessons of solidarity. When Keegan asserted that England had overcome top-class opposition, he was in danger of being carried away by his own publicity.

The difficulties that Sweden were seen to come up against when defeating Luxembourg 2-0 in Gothenburg were a reminder that there are no longer many easy international fixtures, but it would be foolish to suppose that Poland were formidable opponents.

So far so good for Keegan. But here is a thought about England's victory to be going on with. "Our match against Sweden next week is the most important," one of their players said on arrival in London. One of those "must" matches. Credit where it is due - but from the look of the Poles they didn't expect to win anyway.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine