Football: White's double-edged credentials

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . .0

Manchester City. . . . .3

A DECADE has passed since Manchester City supplied a striker for England. Now they are ready to provide two for this week's friendly in Spain - and they are both called David White.

There is, of course, only one White, as City's followers repeatedly reminded Hillsborough. Happily for Peter Reid, and importantly for Graham Taylor, he is a centre-forward and a right- winger rolled into one. Wednesday could contain neither.

Versatility is not something a player can simply turn on or off; witness the fiasco of Keith Curle and Carlton Palmer in unfamiliar roles in Sweden. While a willingness to 'give it a go' is laudable, few can perform at international level with a specialist's effectiveness in two positions. White just might be one; a flexible friend for Alan Shearer and/or Brian Deane.

Wednesday could not curtail his mobility, as he used his 6ft 1in, 12st 9lb physique to power through the middle or his pace in wide positions. Two goals - the first from a free-kick after Wednesday had been harshly penalised under the back-pass rule, the other using slide-rule placement to beat Chris Woods - made White the Premier League's top scorer with seven goals.

Reid's side have designs on topping a more important table. His chairman, Peter Swales, is fond of describing them as 'the last Manchester club to win the championship, and the next'. If the race proves as open as seems likely, they certainly have a chance. This victory gave them 10 points out of 12, and there was a ruthlessness about their second-half display not normally associated with City.

Terry Phelan's speedy covering and probing at left-back has quickly helped in that respect; Curle and Michel Vonk, a muck- or-nettles Dutchman who headed City's second goal, are forging a balanced partnership at centre- back; the unsung Fitzroy Simpson and Gary Flitcroft often embarrassed a pedestrian Palmer in midfield; and then, making light of Niall Quinn's suspension, there was White.

Wednesday, beaten for the third time in eight days, missed David Hirst far more. There were moments from Chris Waddle, particularly before the demoralising opening goal. Thereafter, he was a Tony Benn figure, the veteran campaigner isolated on the far left waiting for the call and unable to influence events.

The anticipated arrival today of Kingsley Black, from Nottingham Forest, will probably see Waddle switch to the right where he had made an excellent home debut against Coventry. A fit-again John Sheridan would ensure the service he needs. But Wednesday may need to spend again - starting with a top-class central defender and better back-up to Hirst - before they turn the corner.

The last City striker capped by England? None other than Wednesday's own dual-purpose forward, the substitute-manager Trevor Francis. At 38 he is no longer White-hot, but in their present predicament Francis should be prevailed upon to reconsider, if only as a short-term measure, the opinion expressed in his programme column that a starting role was not for him.

Goals: White (20) 0-1; Vonk (56) 0-2; White (75) 0-3.

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Nilsson (Harkes, 40), Wilson (Francis, 66), Palmer, Pearson, Warhurst, Watson, Bart-Williams, Waddle, Williams, Worthington. Substitute not used: Pressman (gk).

Manchester City: Coton; I Brightwell, Phelan, Reid (McMahon, 76), Curle, Vonk, White, Flitcroft, Sheron, Simpson, Holden. Substitutes not used: Mike, Margetson (gk).

Referee: R Bigger (Norfolk).

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