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
  • Get to the point
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: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor