Football: Venables places emphasis on youth

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables unveiled his vision of England's future yesterday and it will have drawn gasps of delight from the 'Bush to The Dell and many points further north.

The England coach has summoned a 19-strong group of predominantly young players, all but six of whom are uncapped, for a three-day get-together at The Belfry beginning tomorrow.

Stan Collymore, Nottingham Forest's explosive striker, gets a taste of the international scene for the first time while several players, including David Unsworth, of Everton, and Trevor Sinclair, of Queen's Park Rangers, step up from the under-21 side.

There are a number of unexpected call-ups. Sinclair's club colleague, Andrew Impey, the Southampton defender Richard Hall, Mark Draper, of relegated Leicester City, and Forest's enterprising wide midfielder Steve Stone, are all recognised after impressive seasons.

Another surprise is the inclusion of Richard Edghill, the Manchester City defender whose appearance, together with Gary Flitcroft, caps a wonderful Easter for City after wins over Liverpool and Blackburn.

Andy Cole, almost a veteran in this squad after 19 minutes of international football against Uruguay last month, retains his place but he is joined by one of his main challengers, Liverpool's Robbie Fowler.

The oldest, and most capped, player in the squad is Tony Dorigo, of Leeds. The 29-year-old won the last of his 15 caps in the 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands that put England out of the World Cup qualifiers in Rotterdam 18 months ago. Everyone else is under 25 except for Warren Barton, 26 in years but young as a footballer having come late to the full-time game.

What these players have in common is an ability to play with the ball; not all English footballers are blessed with the versatility of Impey and Barton, and few defenders have the touch and control of Unsworth and Steve Howey.

With the season reaching a decisive stage Venables restricted himself to no more than three players from any one club. Those from Blackburn, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Sampdoria were unavailable because of club commitments.

It is an imaginative squad, drawn from a range of sources. If there is a disappointment it is the absence, once more, of Matt Le Tissier. He is back in form and would have enjoyed the senior status he would possess in such a gathering. His absence cannot be just down to Venables' desire to see new faces, Darren Anderton, a Venables ever-present when not injured, is included.

Also missing is Paul Gascoigne, despite his return to match action with Lazio. Venables did make the point that he is very much in his thoughts and barring further injury - always a possibility - Gascoigne is sure to be involved in this summer's International Challenge which was launched yesterday with much fanfare, geisha girls and samba dancing; the visitors are Japan, Brazil, and Sweden (Stefan Schwarz represented them, Abba must have been unavailable).

More relevant was the presence of Ronaldo, the Brazilian teenager who has scored 25 goals in 28 matches for PSV Eindhoven this season. It will not have escaped Venables' notice that Ronaldo, at 18, is at least two years younger than any of those he will be coaching this week.

ENGLAND SQUAD (for get-together, 20-22 April): Walker (Tottenham), James (Liverpool), Barton (Wimbledon), Flitcroft, Edghill (Manchester City), Howey (Newcastle), Unsworth (Everton), Hall (Southampton), Dorigo (Leeds), Barmby, Anderton (Tottenham), Stone, Collymore (Nottingham Forest), Fowler, Redknapp (Liverpool), Draper (Leicester City), Impey, Sinclair (Queen's Park Rangers), Cole (Manchester United).

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