Football: Taylor's axe falls on Mark Wright: No England recall for Beardsley and Waddle while Gascoigne has to prove himself

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The Independent Online
IT WAS hardly the most auspicious of starts. Graham Taylor had just launched into his vision of England's bright new future when the lights went out, leaving his audience in the dark. No change there, then.

The manager, who was on his soapbox preaching 'a better deal for the international team' at the time, suggested some dastardly Premier League chairman was responsible for the blackout - presumably Liverpool's David Moores.

When was the last time England announced a squad without a single representative from Anfield? Answers on a postcard to the Sick Man of Merseyside.

For the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign, at home to Norway in 12 days time, Taylor has jettisoned Mark Wright, who was to have been his defensive linchpin at the European Championship, in favour of the uncapped Richard Jobson of Oldham Athletic.

Also dropped after the 1-0 defeat in Spain last month are David White, Brian Deane and Nigel Martyn, who is displaced as reserve goalkeeper by the previous incumbent, David Seaman.

Not for the first time, the omissions are more noteworthy than most of the familiar faces in the 22-man squad. Apart from Wright, lauded by the management as England's most accomplished defender last summer, there is no place for Peter Beardsley or Chris Waddle, both of whom went out of their way to stress their availability.

Many, if not most of us, picking the team strictly according to playing ability, would have all three in the starting line-up.

Instead, Taylor has chosen to recall John Salako rather than Waddle, and prefers Nigel Clough, who has still to make an impact in international football after eight attempts to Beardsley as a potential partner-cum-provider for the main striker.

Whether Salako and Clough are better than Beardsley and Waddle is a moot point, at best. The inference that Wright, even in the middle of a bad run, is in some way inferior to Tony Adams, or even Gary Pallister, borders on the perverse.

Paul Gascoigne is there, of course, but there is no guarantee that he will play any part this time. It was suggested that there was a case for giving him half an hour or so, even if he was not fully match fit, in the hope that he might do for England what he did for Tottenham when, as a convalescent, he won a memorable FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.

Taylor was sceptical. There was also a case for giving the country's best player 'no minutes' after his 16 month lay-off. No options were closed, and he planned to watch Gazza play for Lazio against Parma on Sunday. At present though, the man of the moment had it all to prove.

'We are talking about a player who has had 45 minutes of competitive football in 17 months,' Taylor said. 'The more games he gets under his belt the better.

'When he is ready, I will be pleased to have his exceptional talent back - just as I will be pleased to see John Barnes playing again in January.'

Form had been the sole criterion used in excluding Wright, Beardsley, Waddle and Martyn, the manager insisted. 'Wright may be injured, but for my part he's just not selected.

'The biggest disappointment against Spain was the lack of dominance by players at the back, but it was a disappointing display by all the defenders, and I wouldn't want people to think that Mark's absence is down to that one game.'

In the case of Beardsley and Waddle he had sought out both players to ascertain their attitude to playing for England after reading newspaper reports that they had retired from international football.

'Both Beardsley and Waddle made it clear that they are available - if selected. This time, they weren't' Martyn had been dropped because his form was 'not comparable to that of either Chris Woods or David Seaman'.

Of the two fresh faces, Jobson had shown in two appearances for the B team that he was 'probably the most comfortable of all our defenders on the ball', and Salako was being invited, a year to the day after suffering a Gazza-type knee injury, to resume an international career which began with great promise on the 1991 close season tour of Australasia.

'Salako was the bonus from that summer tour,' Taylor said. 'He went on to play against Germany, 13 months ago, but then got injured. He has played a few games now, and I hope he can pick up where he left off.'

Looking ahead to a qualifying series which filled him with 'anticipation and excitement' Taylor outlined three objectives:

To pick the best squad and best team available.

To lobby for a better deal for the international team.

To motivate and organise the players.

A statement of intent which should go without saying, perhaps, but for some reason he felt the need to say it.

Less obvious is the outcome at Wembley on 14 October. 'Time was,' said Taylor, 'that we would regard a game against Norway as a formality, and look to count our goals against them. Yet here they are, counting their 10 goals against San Marino, and beating the Netherlands. Times change.

'By the time they come here, they could be six points clear at the top of the group. They have every right to be considered very seriously, but we are looking for a good result which will lift some of the despondency over English football.'

The England players are to use their free weekend before the Norway game to undergo a series of fitness tests at the Football Association's Lilleshall sports centre.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v Norway, Wembley 14 October): Woods (Sheff Wed), Seaman (Arsenal); Dixon (Arsenal), Bardsley (QPR), Pearce (Nottm Forest), Dorigo (Leeds), Walker (Sampdoria), Adams (Arsenal), Jobson (Oldham), Pallister (Man Utd); Platt (Juventus), Steven (Rangers), Batty (Leeds), Palmer (Sheff Wed), Ince (Man Utd), Gascoigne (Lazio), Merson (Arsenal), Sinton (QPR), Salako (Crystal Palace), Shearer (Blackburn), Clough (Nottm Forest), Wright (Arsenal). Stand-by players: Martyn (Crystal Palace), P Parker (Man Utd), G Parker (Aston Villa), White (Man City), Deane (Sheff Utd).

Republic squad, page 33

(Photograph omitted)