Football: Versatile Watson given his chance to be part of England's World Cup plans

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The Independent Online
It was just one Premiership match, but Arsenal versus Manchester United left Glenn Hoddle with some tidying up to do. By last night the England coach had summoned a replacement for the injured Gary Pallister and confirmed that bridges needed no rebuilding between himself and Alex Ferguson.

The man to stand in for Pallister, who had a recurrence of his back problems during United's 3-2 defeat at Highbury, in the squad for Saturday's friendly against Cameroon is Newcastle United's Steve Watson, a jack-of-all-trades player who could prove to be just what Hoddle requires as a substitute.

When he was manager at St James' Park, Kevin Keegan used Watson, 23, as centre-forward, centre-half, winger, full-back and orthodox midfield player. Watson, who earned 12 England Under-21 caps, perhaps fell between too many stools. It is only since Kenny Dalglish's arrival that he has forged a regular place in the Newcastle first team in either the back four or as part of a central defensive trio.

"I've played in plenty of positions but I've made my mind up to take up a defensive role," Watson said.

The Football Association also concentrated on defence yesterday to quash any suggestions there had been a falling out with Ferguson over Teddy Sheringham. The Manchester United manager had wanted to withdraw the striker from England's squad because of a knee injury, but Hoddle had insisted he turned up yesterday at Bisham Abbey.

"There's no row whatsoever as far as we're concerned," David Davies, the FA's director of public affairs, said. "Glenn was astonished when he read the newspapers this morning."

Hoddle wants to include Sheringham in a discussion about last month's draw in Italy that confirmed England's qualification for next year's World Cup finals - a chance that was denied him when the squad went home direct from Luton Airport. "In the aftermath of the Rome game, Glenn clearly wants to talk over some things with his players," Davies said. "Alex and Glenn will stay in touch over the next few days and the situation will be assessed."

Sheringham, meanwhile, will be the subject of an investigation by Arsenal after a complaint by a supporter that the United striker incited the crowd by his celebration of the first of his two goals at Highbury. They will study video evidence before deciding whether to approach the FA. The police said yesterday that they will take no action.

The investigation concerns Sheringham's pointing to the badge on his shirt in front of Arsenal supporters, who jeered him throughout for his previous connections with Tottenham. Some people might have thought he was gesturing the obvious retort: "I play for Manchester United now" but the complainant clearly considered otherwise.

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