Alan Shearer, the Blackburn Rovers centre-forward whose knee injury has kept him out for nine months but who is certain to play, reinforced Taylor's determination to think only of victory by saying: 'It would be against the English game to play for a draw.' With Les Ferdinand definitely out and Ian Wright doubtful with ligament problems, Shearer is under pressure to ensure that David Platt is not left to rescue England yet again.
Shearer said yesterday that he had convinced himself that he was ready for the challenge. 'Would I have scored any more goals this season if I were any fitter?' he said after England trained at Bisham Abbey yesterday. 'For me this is like another England debut. I know the Dutch are not going to lie down and die, but I've always scored in my debut matches: for Southampton reserves, Southampton, England Under-17, England Under-21, the full England side and Blackburn Rovers.' Since his return to the Blackburn side this season he has contributed five goals in four matches.
Shearer added that he was hoping that Wright would recover 'because I thought we were just starting a partnership before I was injured'. Taylor has given Wright and the captain, Stuart Pearce, until tomorrow afternoon to appear on the practice pitch; otherwise he will consider them as good as out. 'I wouldn't say they were definitely out but it would be a difficult situation.'
Taylor said that he had already thought out the possibility of being without Pearce and Wright and had decided on his alternatives. Presumably that would mean bringing in Teddy Sheringham to play alongside Shearer and having Tony Dorigo at left-back.
The pressure on England to win is only equalled by the similar intensity of expectation in the Netherlands. Platt, who will captain England if Pearce fails to recover from his thigh injury, said: 'They are as apprehensive as we are. They realise that this is their biggest game for a long, long time as well. For both of us defeat doesn't bear thinking about.'
He believes the Dutch are concerned about the reappearance of Shearer but does not underestimate their capabilities. 'You have to remember that we have got where we are with Paul Gascoigne but they have got to where they are without Marco van Basten.'
Even without the suspended Gascoigne, Platt said England 'can't play as badly again as we did against Norway - that was like a non-performance'. Although he said that playing with a five-man defence against the Norwegians was not an experiment but a tactic decided upon too late for proper preparation, it is unlikely that England will again employ any last-minute change from a 4-4-2 pattern.
Suggestions that Paul Parker may appear in front of the back four in order to stifle Dennis Bergkamp lack credibility and the likelihood is a team as closely resembling the side who beat Poland as injuries will allow. That would have Wright partnering Shearer at the front with Platt, Ince, Sharpe and the reliable if unspectacular Sinton in midfield, and Jones, Adams, Pallister and Pearce in defence.
At least that side would retain some continuity, and perhaps avoid the naivety that prevented England from counteracting the mid-game Dutch tactical changes at Wembley last April, and thereby cost them a valuable point. This is the point that they must recover on Wednesday, or they will be spectators at the finals in the United States.Reuse content