Football / World Cup: Tinker Taylor shuns concept of continuity: The England manager makes five changes as he reshapes his team to face the Dutch in crucial qualifying tie

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The Independent Online
THE SPECTRE of Oslo raised its hideous head here yesterday, when England changed half their team for the crucial World Cup qualifier with the Netherlands in the Feyenoord Stadium tonight.

Graham Taylor, having said he wanted to keep as close as possible to the side victorious against Poland last month, was greeted with raised eyebrows and scepticism all round when he came up with more alterations than Sketchleys - five in personnel and another positional.

Three of the changes were forced on him by the unavailability of Paul Gascoigne, Stuart Pearce and Les Ferdinand. Much sympathy was lost, though, when he jettisoned Rob Jones and Ian Wright voluntarily in favour of Paul Parker and Paul Merson, and contradicted the like for like policy he espoused at the weekend by replacing a striker, Wright, with Platt, a midfield player.

Not for the first time, the hack pack were bemused. Having been led to believe that Taylor had learned his lesson, and was embracing continuity, another new-look team was viewed with misgivings rather than the enthusiasm the manager appeared to expect.

Taylor bridled when questioned about the number of changes, and lost his cool when one critic drew a parallel between the pig's ear team beaten in Norway and the unexpected assortment assembled here. 'Don't be so silly,' he scolded. 'I'm absolutely amazed that you should see it like that.'

The suggestion that people at home might fear for a team featuring so many changes fuelled the managerial ire. 'Only if you fellas give it all that,' he said. 'C'mon, raise yourselves, look for a win. I cannot have faces like yours about me.'

To the side-splitting amusement of Dutch journalists, he rounded again on Disgusted of Today, who had had the temerity to mention Oslo. 'If you were one of my players, I'd kick you out. Don't make the rest of us worry. Go and worry on your own.'

Unfortunately, Today were by no means on their own in their concern for the morrow. With Taylor's eruption witnessed by at least five of his players, it would be a miracle if his paranoia was not transmitted through the squad.

England may still be good enough to get the draw they need, but if they do it is likely to be despite, rather than because of, the manager's latest reshuffle.

There can be no quibble with the replacement of Pearce, who is not match-fit, with Tony Dorigo, or the return of Alan Shearer in Les Ferdinand's place, and the sudden preference for Parker over Jones more than two years after his last appearance, is

idiosyncratic, but not unwelcome.

Taylor says the Manchester United right-back is playing well for his club, and that his extra experience will be valuable in such a big game, but Parker has been playing well for United throughout his absence from the national squad, and presumably his experience would have been just as useful for the Poland game, which was no less vital to England's cause.

In fairness, though, he is in prime form and a more reliable defender than Jones - better equipped to deal with the tricky incursions of Brian Roy down the Dutch left.

So much for the good news. If Parker's reintroduction is to be applauded, the celebrations attendant on Carlton Palmer's return will be rather more muted.

The basketall player, as the Dutch once derided him, did well in the corresponding fixture at Wembley, but remains a limited scuffler whose technique has been found wanting at this level, and his selection to fill the Gascoigne vacancy hardly squares with Taylor's assertion that England have come here to win.

The most contentious choice sees Merson, who has been dropped by Arsenal lately, favoured over Wright, who has been passed fit to play. 'The chances are that Ian wouldn't have started, even had he not had his injury,' Taylor said.

Merson wants to play as a striker, but is not considered good enough to do so at club level, and his role here is expected to be on the right side of midfield, with Platt stepping forward to partner Shearer in attack.

Taylor declined to discuss his ultimate game plan, or who would play where, because the Dutch were 'tactically aware', and much would depend on their uniquely flexible deployment.

Dick Advocaat has delayed the announcement of his team, but is said to have made his selection on a horses-for-courses basis.

Ulrich Van Gobbel, the Netherlands' fastest defender, would have played, had Ferdinand been fit, but has been stood down in favour of the rugged John de Wolf, of Feyenoord, and Ronald de Boer, a small, darting Ajax striker, is given a better chance of embarrassing England's tall central defenders than the more orthodox Johnny Bosman, who scored a hat- trick against San Marino last time out.

Most significantly of all, the Dutch will play with two wingers - Roy on the left, Marc Overmars on the right - in the belief that England are vulnerable at full-back. They may be right. For all his inconsistencies, though, Tinker Taylor has turned out a team capable of getting the draw they have come for. One-all is favourite on what is sure to be a night of high drama, but it may need Wright to come off the bench and repeat his heroics of

Chorzow.

----------------------------------------------------------------- GROUP TWO ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Norway 8 6 2 0 21 3 14 Netherlands 8 4 3 1 24 8 11 England 8 4 3 1 19 6 11 Poland 7 3 2 2 8 7 8 Turkey 8 1 1 6 7 17 3 San Marino 9 0 1 8 1 39 1 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Remaining fixtures: Today: Netherlands v England; Poland v Norway. 27 Oct: Turkey v Poland. 10 Nov: Turkey v Norway. 17 Nov: San Marino v England; Poland v Netherlands. -----------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------- ROTTERDAM LINE-UPS ----------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND SEAMAN (Arsenal) PARKER PALLISTER ADAMS DORIGO (Man Utd) (Man Utd) (Arsenal) (Leeds Utd) PALMER (Sheff Wed) MERSON INCE SHARPE (Arsenal) (Man Utd) (Man Utd) PLATT SHEARER (Sampdoria) (Blackburn Rovers) ----------------------------------------------------------------- ROY R DE BOER OVERMARS (Foggia) (Ajax) (Ajax) BERGKAMP (Internazionale) E KOEMAN WOUTERS RIJKAARD (PSV) (B Munich) (Ajax) R KOEMAN (Barcelona) DE WOLF F DE BOER (Feyenoord) (Ajax) DE GOEY (Feyenoord) ----------------------------------------------------------------- NETHERLANDS (probable) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

World Cup football

Merson's spell, page 38

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