Football: Stubbs will have chance to impress Keegan

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The Independent Online
THE OLD Firm meeting in November could spell a turning point in the career of Alan Stubbs, the Celtic defender. Kevin Keegan, the England manager, intends to watch the game to assess his form and fitness.

Stubbs has fought his way back into the Celtic first team after recovering from a serious illness, believed to be testicular cancer. Keegan has been impressed with the way he has responded and insists that playing in Scotland has not hindered his chances of playing for England.

"I saw in the papers that John Barnes [Celtic's head coach] was telling Alan not to give up on playing for England and he's absolutely right to do so," Keegan said. "The fact is that down here I do not get to see how Alan is playing as often as I'd like, unless I catch a live match on TV.

"But before picking him I would tend to wait and see how he plays against Rangers because, with no disrespect to the rest of the teams in the league or without being unkind, that's the best gauge. That and Europe.

"I know Alan had problems with his health but then I also know about him as a player from his Bolton days. I know he can use the ball well and play midfield as well as defence. I can assure him that being in Scotland will not affect his chances - how he plays will.

"Celtic are still in Europe and have yet to play Rangers and I know that is a massive game and a test for any player. I will either see the game in person or will watch it live on TV."

The Hearts chief executive, Chris Robinson, pleaded with referee John Rowbotham to abandon the Premier League match against Motherwell at Fir Park on Monday night, the club admitted yesterday.

There was widespread speculation that Robinson had gone to the referee's room to check on drug-testing procedures, but Hearts have confirmed that the playing surface was being discussed.

Rowbotham decided the conditions were unplayable and called the game off at half-time, which incensed the Motherwell chairman, John Boyle. He claimed Robinson had placed Rowbotham under undue pressure. Motherwell were winning the game 1-0 at the time.

A Hearts spokesman, Douglas Dalgleish, said: "It is wrong to say Chris Robinson went to the dressing room to check on drug-testing procedures.

"He was concerned about people's welfare on the pitch. Of course he had a right to go to the referee's room and complain about the conditions as the club is his responsibility."

In bizarre scenes, Rowbotham came out at half-time to test the surface by kicking a ball around and concluded the field was unplayable as conditions had worsened in heavy rain.

Boyle said: "What distresses me is that the Hearts chief executive went into the referee's room at half-time to make a protest and I think that's out of order. I would have preferred it if the referee had made his decision completely impartially as we understand protests were made in advance of it."