Football: Venables finds a place for over-30s: Richardson selected

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The Independent Online
THE new England which took further shape yesterday can be a thing of age as well as beauty. That much Terry Venables made clear when he handed unexpected invitations to the Aston Villa skipper, Kevin Richardson, and the veteran Arsenal stopper, Steve Bould, for the squad that will prepare next week for friendly games with Greece and Norway.

If not yet so advanced in years that they have begun to work out their pensions, both Bould and Richardson will admit that at 31 they thought their chance of international recognition had passed them by. Indeed, so disbelieving was the man on Villa's tiller that he stared at teletext for two minutes, expecting his name to disappear from the television screen and the squad.

Having restored life to Peter Beardsley's dormant England career against Denmark in March, and been rewarded with an inspirational performance that brought the best out of his new line-up and an exhilarating start for the new era, Venables is keen that other thirtysomethings should no longer feel overlooked.

While these older players can anticipate a belated opportunity, the young bucks must continue to wait their chance - Andy Cole and Chris Sutton have been omitted from both the 20-man party for the Wembley games on Tuesday against Greece and against Norway the following Sunday, and the stand-by sextet.

Bould, who owes his selection to the injury that removed Des Walker from the reckoning, will be grateful that Venables paid more attention to the defender who has been consistency personified for Arsenal over the years - notably in this season's victorious march through Europe - rather than the occasionally uncertain figure who captained England B in their win over Northern Ireland B on Tuesday.

At Hillsborough Bould was embarrassed for pace. But stationed alongside Tony Adams, he can more easily disguise his shortcomings. 'Their partnership has been so solid and they have taken that into Europe and still not given much away,' Venables said.

Richardson was another under-rated player who had much to offer. With talent distributed generously throughout the squad, there was a need for those who can 'mind the shop' while others go out to play. He reads the game well and is a good passer, Venables said, a quality which he also attributes to Dennis Wise, promoted after making a good impression in last month's training ensemble at Bisham Abbey.

'If they are good enough they are young enough or old enough, whichever one applies,' Venables said. 'We are only looking two years down the road (the European Championship) and it is not impossible that both Bould and Richardson will still be involved with us then. All you can do is pick players on what they are doing on the pitch. Some look old before they are 30, others like Beardsley look the same as they did at 28.'

Cole will be a little older before his time arrives, his 41 goals in a season of extraordinary marksmanship for Newcastle seemingly still not enough to persuade Venables to leave out one of his more experienced trio of strikers. The same goes for Sutton, who struggled to make an impression for England B at Hillsborough, and for Dean Holdsworth, who had a good game on Tuesday.

'The competition for places is unbelievable and I have tried to keep it as close to the first squad as possible,' Venables said. 'Those players deserve to be in again but there is no reason why Cole should not have a place in the future.'

With Paul Gascoigne and David Batty injured, Paul Merson's first call-up under Venables was to be expected.

ENGLAND SQUAD (Friendly internationals v Greece, Wembley, 17 May, and v Norway, Wembley, 22 May): Seaman (Arsenal), Flowers (Blackburn); R Jones (Liverpool), Pearce (Nottingham Forest), Adams, Bould, Merson, Wright (all Arsenal), Pallister, Parker, Ince (all Manchester Utd), Le Saux, Shearer (both Blackburn), Anderton (Tottenham), Wise (Chelsea), Richardson (Aston Villa), Platt (Sampdoria), Le Tissier (Southampton), Beardsley (Newcastle), Ferdinand (QPR). Stand-by players: Pressman (Sheff Wed); Barton, Scales (both Wimbledon), Sherwood, Wilcox (both Blackburn), Lee (Newcastle).