Football: Waddle ignored as Taylor opts for continuity: Double Dutch the order of the day as England manager resists the popular vote by omitting the man in form from his World Cup squad

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The Independent Online
THEY had better win, or the booing won't stop at John Barnes this time. The continued omission of Chris Waddle from England's World Cup squad has baffled just about everyone - the Dutch included - and Graham Taylor will go to Wembley on Wednesday week as the classic hostage to fortune.

Inevitably, Taylor's decision to soldier on without the best player in the country was the subject of protracted debate yesterday, when the manager made public his selection for the Netherlands' visit on 28 April.

Any strategy which favours continuity over individual excellence will never be easy to defend, and few critics were won over by an explanation which revolved around the desire to keep faith with the players who have won their last three games. Not when the opposition were as poor as San Marino and Turkey, and certainly not when the latest squad shows five changes to that chosen for Izmir, two weeks ago.

Missing from that party are Tony Dorigo, David Batty and Paul Warhurst, who have all been injured, Alan Smith, who is dropped, along with Nigel Martyn, the third goalkeeper, deemed surplus to requirements at home. In come Earl Barrett, Nigel Winterburn, Trevor Steven and Teddy Sheringham.

Under normal circumstances, attention would focus on Sheringham, the Tottenham striker, who is the one newcomer with no previous experience. This time, though, there will be more interest in one man who has not been picked than in the 22 who have.

Waddle is, by common consent, the most effective provider in the Premier League. Dennis Bergkamp, the Netherlands' own man of the moment, expressed astonishment at his absence. How could Taylor justify spurning an experienced international at the peak of his form while retaining John Barnes and Nigel Clough, who are enduring the worst seasons of their respective careers?

He gave it a good try. An hour's verbiage boiled down to the fact that, if he had Waddle in the squad, he would feel compelled to play him, and in order to do that he would have to amend his tactics, which he was not prepared to do.

Taylor shied away from comparisons, but was grateful for the suggestion that it would be difficult to accommodate Waddle and Paul Gascoigne - two playmakers - in the same side. It was wrong, he insisted, to talk in terms of Barnes keeping his old rival out of the team. Barnes played on the left, Waddle the right. They were not in direct competition.

What Taylor actually said was: 'I understand the calls for Chris to come into the squad but, having given it a great deal of thought, I came to the conclusion that I should stick with the boys who have produced our last four World Cup results.

'I feel that if I brought Chris back into the squad for this game, I would have to play him, and to play him I would have to rearrange the team, which I don't really want to do. I don't think that would be fair after what this squad has done over the last four or five months.'

Unconvincing. Form rather than fairness should be the overriding criterion. England's 22 should be the best 22 available. Sheringham and Les Ferdinand had forced their way in by playing well. Waddle, playing better than anyone, deserves a place.

Taylor would not have it. 'I know all about Chris. I didn't know about Les Ferdinand and I don't know about Teddy Sheringham. I want to find out about them.'

If it came down to a straight choice between Waddle and Gascoigne as playmaker, there was a good case for dropping Gascoigne, whose last two performances for England have been poor, and whose form for Lazio of late has seen him substituted time and again. No chance. Taylor said: 'I've been watching Chris since the start of the season, not just in the last two weeks. People made a lot of the fact that I saw him play at Oldham, but I saw him at Manchester City, at home to Tottenham and at Aston Villa as well. I feel I have a good picture of Chris Waddle this season.'

The audience remained sceptical. Was there a personality clash, wondered the newspaper which last year had Waddle accusing Taylor of setting back England's development by five years? That little 'misunderstanding' had been resolved to mutual satisfaction, the manager said. 'When Chris returned from Marseille, I went out of my way to go and see Chris and say to him: 'If you've got anything to complain about, tell me to my face. Don't let's be reading about these things in the papers.' If there was any clearing up to be done, it was done a long time ago.'

Glenn Hoddle, undervalued in the Eighties, was an obvious analogy, and one Taylor did nothing to contradict. 'There will always be somebody not in the England team who people think should be,' he said. 'Invariably it will be a skilful player. I don't see the situation as anything new. If Chris was in, it would be somebody else.'

Under what circumstances would he have Waddle back? 'I would do it if I felt Chris could come in and add something to the team without it losing anything. Those circumstances can arise.'

Taylor's tactical reasoning is sound. Waddle and Gascoigne both need to be at the hub of things to be effective, and two chiefs for 11 indians would seem to be excessive. Logic, however, dictates that if Waddle is not in the 11 he should certainly be in the 16 - let alone the 22. The real answer probably lies in the manager's intention to create his own team, to which end he has pensioned off the Bobby Robson inheritance, bit by bit.

Waddle is not the only casualty. Similar calls for the reinstatement of Peter Beardsley have gone unheeded, Paul Parker has lost out to Barrett and Mark Hateley is forgotten, despite a prolific season with Rangers. Of yesterday's four promotions, only Winterburn has a realistic chance of playing, Arsenal's left-back owing the chance of a first appearance in the starting line-up, at Andy Sinton's expense, to the injuries which again removed Stuart Pearce and Tony Dorigo from contention. Sheringham, like the unlucky Warhurst last time, is in because he is 'hot', and Taylor wants to 'have a look at him' at close quarters.

Waddle is even hotter, but in his case 160 miles would seem to be close enough.


WORLD CUP Group Two qualifier v the Netherlands, Wembley, 28 April: Woods (Sheffield Wednesday), Seaman (Arsenal); Dixon, Winterburn, Adams (all Arsenal), Bardsley (Queen's Park Rangers), Barrett (Aston Villa), Walker (Sampdoria), Pallister, Ince, Sharpe (all Manchester United), Platt (Juventus), Steven (Rangers), Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Gascoigne (Lazio), Barnes (Liverpool), Sinton, Ferdinand (both Queen's Park Rangers), Wright, Merson (both Arsenal), Clough (Nottingham Forest), Sheringham (Tottenham). Stand- by players: Martyn (Crystal Palace); Burrows (Liverpool), Jobson (Oldham), Deane (Sheffield United).

(Photograph omitted)