Football / World Cup: Taylor asks England to raise the tempo: Keown given job of marking Gullit

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ENGLAND have a poor record against the Netherlands, with just one win in their last six games, but they are unlikely to get a better chance of beating them than the one which presents itself at Wembley tonight.

The Netherlands contest the leadership of World Cup Group Two with half a team missing, and in such a depleted state that the Hack of Holland cut through the pre-match hype and challenged Paul Gascoigne to name the opponents he might actually recognise. Poor Gazza, more familiar with knees than faces these days, was dumbstruck for once, but Rijkaard, Gullit and Bergkamp would have done nicely for starters.

No Dutch team will ever be easy meat, but England are duly grateful for the absence of Van Basten, Koeman, Jonk, Van Aerle, Kieft, et al, and determined to take advantage.

They are no strangers to injury themselves, of course, having been deprived of three strikers (Alan Smith, Ian Wright, and David Hirst) and two left-backs (Stuart Pearce and Tony Dorigo). Yet there were no complaints from Graham Taylor, who strives for continuity by keeping as close as possible to the team victorious in Turkey last month.

Les Ferdinand, injured in Izmir, returns for a second cap as Wright's replacement, and Martin Keown's adhesive marking gets him the vote over Andy Sinton at left-back. Otherwise, the order is as you were, with David Platt continuing in his alternative role, as principal striker, and John Barnes retained on the left of midfield, in preference to Paul Merson.

Two weeks ago, when the squad was announced, Keown was not even among the stand-by replacements. Now, apparently, he is the only man to mark Ruud Gullit. Explaining his change of heart, Taylor said: 'Martin is probably the best man for man marker we have. I always had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were going to need him.'

Not including him from the outset had been a mistake, the manager admitted. 'I went to Arsenal's match against Nottingham Forest last Wednesday with the intention of seeing George Graham and bringing in Martin, even before Nigel Winterburn was injured. When I originally named the squad I was wondering whether he would have settled in sufficiently at Arsenal. After thinking about it, I felt I had to bring him back.'

Keown's height and pace would be beneficial, he felt, against Gullit who, at 6ft 2in, was an opponent of stature, in every sense. The Dutch are more adept than most at interchanging to confuse their markers, and it would be surprising if Gullit did not wander from his starting position, wide on the right, in search of space.

In that event, Keown will not be dragged around. Taylor said: 'I haven't asked Martin to follow him all over the pitch - just to pick him up when he comes into his area.'

The left-back position apart, Taylor will have given most thought to the continued selection of Barnes, who was barracked by the crowd when San Marino came to Wembley. He was dropped for the Turkey match, but restored to the side with a new brief, on the left side of midfield, when Ferdinand failed a late fitness test.

Merson would have been the bold choice this time, his pacy and aggressive running more likely to damage the Dutch, but Taylor intends to keep faith with his old protege, regardless of public opinion. Yes, he said, Barnes might be booed again, but if he was, he would have to cope.

Barnes, alone among all the England players, is refusing to talk to the media, and it was left to Taylor to assure us that the Greta Garbo of the left flank shares the collective desire to 'deliver the goods'.

Delivery needs to take the form of two points rather than one if England are to hold the Dutch at bay and at the same time ensure against a setback in the forthcoming away games against Poland (29 May) and Norway (2 June). Taylor believes tempo - his word of the moment - holds the key to success. 'We need to dictate the pace of the game, and doing that is the responsibility of the whole team. When we don't have the ball, we are reluctant to let the opposition keep it. No opposition can ever stop you challenging for the ball.'

The players put it another way. 'Holland are a good team, with some world-class players,' Gascoigne said, 'but the names aren't going to mean anything to us. We've got to be tough on the night and not show them undue respect.'

No danger of that from Keown, at least. No, he was not worried about marking Gullit. He had played at left- back before, and 'you are always up against quality players in the Premier League'. Who had he marked of late? Coventry City's John Williams and Chris Kiwomya of Ipswich Town. That's all right then. Rudi must be honoured to find himself in such company.

THE NETHERLANDS (probable): De Goey (Feyenoord); Rijkaard (Milan), De Wolf (Feyenoord), F de Boer (Ajax), Winter (Lazio), Wouters (Bayern Munich), Rob Witschge (Feyenoord), Gullit (Milan), Bergkamp (Ajax), Van Vossen (Anderlecht), Overmars (Ajax).

----------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND LINE-UP ----------------------------------------------------------------- WOODS Sheffield Wednesday DIXON WALKER ADAMS KEOWN Arsenal Sampdoria Arsenal Arsenal INCE PALMER BARNES Man Utd Sheff Wed Liverpool GASCOIGNE Lazio PLATT FERDINAND Juventus QPR -----------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------- GROUP TWO ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Norway 4 3 1 0 15 2 7 England 4 3 1 0 13 1 7 Netherlands 5 3 1 1 15 6 7 Poland 2 1 1 0 3 2 3 Turkey 7 1 1 5 6 14 3 San Marino 6 0 1 5 1 28 1 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Victory for England U-21, page 33

(Photograph omitted)