Football: Seaman joins Keegan sicklist

DAVID SEAMAN has become the fourth player to pull out of the England squad ahead of their European Championship qualifiers against Luxembourg and Poland.

The Arsenal goalkeeper had been doubtful to play against Luxembourg on Saturday but the England coach, Kevin Keegan, was still hoping he would recover from the calf injury which has kept him out since the start of the season.

Keegan is an ebullient man, but even he is beginning to get depressed by the task of issuing daily medical bulletins on his squad. Playing the role of a doctor's receptionist was not, to coin a phrase, what he saw in the brochure when he agreed to be England coach.

Turn the conversation to footballers, specifically strikers, however, and enthusiasm surges back into his voice. England are blessed with high- quality strikers at present and Keegan is aware of his fortune.

"It is lovely to work with the best and they're all so different," he said after training at Bisham Abbey. "In Chris Sutton I see someone who is big but has got very good feet. In Robbie Fowler I see someone who is left-footed but scores with his right often enough to make you worried. Like Arsenal on Saturday, they back-tracked, and he went left, right, left, right, and forced the keeper into a great save.

"I see Michael Owen, just sheer pace and lack of respect, not in a nasty way, in a `I will take you on' way, like he did to the Argentinian defence.

"I still see in Alan Shearer the stubbornness and the leadership qualities and this, you know, `yes, prove them wrong' resistance because he's had to do that a lot of times in his career and not just now. Then there's Kevin Phillips, and Teddy Sheringham, and you could throw Andy Cole [who is not in the squad] in to that if you want."

The problem for Keegan is who to play against Luxembourg on Saturday, and Poland next week. He insists, despite the captain's lack of form, that it is Shearer plus one - or two.

"He will definitely start," said Keegan. "You might say, `doesn't that put him under more pressure?' I don't think people like Shearer can be put under any more pressure. Every time they step on the field they are under pressure.

"I think what Shearer has to try to do now is draw a line. There has been massive upheaval at his club and he has taken his share of flak, some of it over the top."

So, who partners him? In the past Shearer has worked well with Sutton for Blackburn and both Sheringham and, in their one outing, Phillips, for England. Owen, if fully fit, would appear the most formidable partner but there is a question mark over how well they combine. Fowler, meanwhile, is in the richest form.

Keegan's subsequent comments suggested the most likely starting partner for Shearer is Fowler, possibly with Sheringham behind them, even though that trio failed to impress against Bulgaria in June. Sutton and Owen would be options from the bench.

"Was I excited by Robbie on Saturday? Who wouldn't be? I thought his performance was, at times, breathtaking. He stood out like a beacon, it was as well as I have seen him play `live'.

"He has matured. He's always been a kid who has done really well. Now he's a young man. He's had a kiddie which, as I said to him, means even more responsibility. He has to be given the chance to thrive on that responsibility and handle it. Maybe he has not been given that before but now Gerard Houllier has made him vice-captain at Liverpool and he's responding to that."

Owen only got a couple of minutes on Saturday and, though Keegan thought he needed the match less than `a big defender like Sol Campbell' [who, as expected, returned injured to Tottenham yesterday], he felt his sharpness and stamina might be affected.

With one eye on the Poland match he thus indicated that Owen would either start or finish on Saturday but was unlikely to do both.

That hints at a preference for Owen and Shearer, despite post-World Cup evidence that they do not gel well.

"That's fair comment," said Keegan "but that doesn't mean they're not capable of playing really well together. We're judging them on one game all the time; sometimes after a three-month break.

"I don't think there is a clash of egos. I think there's a youthfulness about one and a maturity about the other, so there's no reason, bearing in mind the ability of the two, why they can't play together.

"Against Argentina [in the World Cup], before it was disrupted [by David Beckham's dismissal], I didn't see too much wrong with it."

Yet it all hinges on Shearer's mood. In response to the suggestion that he and Sutton played well together at Blackburn, Keegan inadvertently pin-pointed the problem with the captain's state of mind.

"At that time they were playing in a team full of confidence, a team that was to go on and win the championship. That is a big factor in football. Alan has not been playing in a side full of confidence. It does affect you when you're up front. You can't quite do the things a midfield player and defender can do in terms of getting involved because of the position you play in the side."

Since England are not exactly playing with confidence either it is, perhaps, a blessing that they meet Luxembourg first. A few Shearer goals against the part-timers and everything could look much rosier when England set off to Warsaw on Monday. The alternative is not something either want to contemplate at present.

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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss