Adams backs Terry as nation's natural leader

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The Independent Football

And to show that Roy Keane is not the only one with trenchant comments about Manchester United, Adams used a media session at the Swindon headquarters of England sponsors Nationwide to dismiss Alan Smith as a disaster in midfield and Mikaël Silvestre as a poor defender whose selection by France for the World Cup would do England a favour.

"Beckham is needed in the England team," he said. "His distribution is fantastic. There is not a better crosser of the ball in the world. But as a leader, Terry would be the man. From his position you can see the pitch, you can drive the team. He has inbuilt leadership. He gives everything, and other players see that and it rubs off. That sort of player can lift a team, make other people great. That's what I tried to do. So Sven has got another big call, but if it benefits the team he has to do it."

Another big call would be for Ferdinand to operate in front of England's back four, as Ledley King did so efficiently against Poland. "This is not new, we did it to good effect with Gareth Southgate when I was playing. Rio can't do that at Manchester United, at the moment they haven't got two other centre-halves. But he could do it for England because behind him we've got Sol [Campbell] and Terry.

"We've made massive tactical progress in this country. Let's not go back to 4-4-2, straight up and down, no rotation, no movement, or we're going to get a good hiding again. Rio is a big player, we need him. If I was the manager I would want to know whether he could do it or not. It would take guts, but I hope Sven is strong enough to say that he knows he needs different teams for different situations. If we lose 3-0 in Geneva but he and the players have gained something from it, then well done.

"The public aren't stupid. Everyone can see the lack of drive. It's not that you don't care about public perception, but England managers are in that position for a reason. I just want him to try something against Argentina that he can call upon in the World Cup. And since we still have to play with passion, that may need a bit of leadership from your captain. I hope that's a decision he makes sooner rather than later." Describing Rooney as "Gazza with a better finish", Adams borrowed a notebook to sketch the positions he thought Rooney should be operating in and from, collecting and striking from inside his own half. "You need Rooney to get the ball and run from wide positions."

As for United's lapses, Adams said: "If I was Fergie I'd be worried about Alan Smith. I don't see Alan doing what Keane did, box to box, and there is always going to be the comparison because he's in Roy's position."

Nor did his old club Arsenal escape a gentle cuff. "At the moment Arsenal are a very young team. They have kids who could be fantastic, but Patrick Vieira's departure may have been a year too early, so this could be a transitional season."

As for England, Adams thinks they can go the distance in Germany with 16 or 17 top-quality people. "But," he cautioned, "we need them in their best positions."