Football: World Cup: Creative players the key to an England win

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The Independent Online
IT IS generally accepted that England will play both Paul Ince and David Batty in midfield today, but to my mind that will be a mistake. They are too similar and against Tunisia, in a game we must win, we can't afford to be negative or have the luxury of two holding players. Let Ince do that job on his own; he is certainly capable.

Batty does not push enough balls forward and he doesn't score many goals. We need more creative players in the midfield area and that's why if it is going to be Darren Anderton on the right instead of David Beckham, then Hoddle might well use both the Manchester United lads, Beckham and Paul Scholes, in the middle alongside Ince.

There's also Robert Lee to consider; he is a better passer than he is given credit for and he has probably suffered at Newcastle with the arrival of David Batty and the introduction of a more patient style of play.

My choice would be to play Beckham wide on the right. There is no better crosser of the ball and he is also quicker and goes past defenders more than the Tottenham lad does.

Anderton has experience in his favour but he worries me when he comes back to defend as he will have to do in that wing-back role.

The key to an England victory is to find Alan Shearer with the ball early and in the areas where he can take maximum advantage. That's where Anderton's role will be crucial as the right-sided player. If there's one thing that has disappointed me in the World Cup it has been the quality of the crossing.

The midfield players also have a crucial responsibility. I used to get sick of seeing Gary Lineker coming deep to receive balls or taking them with his back to goal when he was in the England team because it was a waste of his main asset, his explosive pace. I don't want to see Shearer doing the same. He needs the ball knocked into channels to run onto and use his strength and eye for a goal.

I've always said that the game of football is about looking up and seeing what needs to be done to bring most benefit to the team. For that to happen the player on the ball must have his head up to see what's necessary, whether it's the five-yard pass or a 50-yard one. What I've noticed with the England midfield and also with their defenders is that their heads are not always up to take account of what is needed to best serve the interests of the team.

I'm sure Glenn will start with Shearer and Teddy Sheringham in attack. Like the captain, Sheringham is very adept at taking up the right positions and getting on the end of crosses.

In my view he took a lot of unfair stick from the media over his drinking session in Portugal. It was 13 days before England's first game - when are you supposed to be relaxing and when are you training? The fact was the coach had given the players a few days off. How many journalists go away for a few days off and don't sink a few drinks?

Michael Owen can be left on the bench for this game, ready to come on and use his pace if needed. It worries me that we are already labelling him England's matchwinner and pinning a lot of hopes on him. He's only 18 and so inexperienced at this level, a level when he will be up against the best defenders in the world.

Owen can play more of a role later on because what you will find at tournaments like this is that the managers have to adapt and change their teams according to the opposition.

I would have preferred it if Glenn had come out and named his team yesterday and put all this speculation and talk about who will play where to bed. There is something to be said for naming the side in advance. It strikes a positive note and tells the opposition that you hold no fears about them, that you are supremely confident in your own team and its methods.

As I said at the start this is a game England have to win. If we drop points then we it will be an uphill task in the other group fixtures against Romania and Colombia. The pressure will be on our lads but they are used to that. Every week in the Premiership they will be told to go out and keep up the pace of their game, not to drop to the tempo of the other side. If we do that, if we work as hard as Tunisia, will do then I am confident England will start with a win and we can all settle down and relax.