Adams handed task of inspiring England

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The Independent Football

Until his abdication this summer Alan Shearer lived the schoolboy dream, England captain and centre-forward. Yesterday the first half of this fantasy combination was passed on, the other put up for grabs.

Until his abdication this summer Alan Shearer lived the schoolboy dream, England captain and centre-forward. Yesterday the first half of this fantasy combination was passed on, the other put up for grabs.

Kevin Keegan confirmed that Tony Adams will be England's new captain, beginning with the friendly against France in Paris on 2 September. He has captained the side before, but only as a deputy and this appointment is long overdue. Given the creaking state of his limbs and back, it may also be a short-lived one. Keegan, though he talked of Adams going on for years, tacitly recognised this when he named Sol Campbell the heir apparent, making him vice-captain, a position which had not previously existed.

If Adams was the obvious choice as captain, Shearer's successor as centre-forward is less clear. Yesterday Andy Cole, fit again after missing the European Championship through injury, was added to a list of contenders which already featured Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Kevin Phillips. Only Robbie Fowler, currently injured, was missing from the squad which will travel to France next Thursday.

"They are all different," Keegan said of the quartet. "Andy Cole is a good finisher who is now at his peak. He is much improved from the player I had at Newcastle and has a very strong claim.

"Kevin Phillips, though he has not scored in three England matches, has got in good positions and done some very good work. Michael Owen is already proven at this level in many ways and he will get better. Emile Heskey was tremendous against Argentina and when I put him on, rather than Phillips or Robbie Fowler, in the summer it was because I was looking for more of that."

Shearer and Fowler apart, the squad which failed in the summer has largely been retained. Even Steve McManaman, out of favour at Real Madrid, is included. "He was surprised," Keegan admitted, "but he has a physique and lifestyle which means he could play 15 to 30 minutes in Paris without problems."

The only player dropped is Richard Wright who did not play a minute in the low countries but gave a nervous performance on his international debut during the warm-up match with Malta. The Ipswich Town goalkeeper, who put on a sparkling display in front of Keegan at Portman Road on Tuesday, was assured that "he is the future". The present, however, appears to be David James, the Aston Villa keeper, who appears to have been forgiven for his FA Cup final lapse.

James was one of the six players cut from the final Euro squad last May. Of the others, Rio Ferdinand and Kieron Dyer are, like Cole, recalled while Jamie Redknapp, Ray Parlour and Jason Wilcox are again ruled out through injury. There are no fresh faces - no David Johnson or Michael Bridges.

The impact of injury means this uninspiring squad, whose average age is actually older than that of the Euro 22, also retains the familiar lack of balance on the left. Both Graeme Le Saux and Stuart Pearce were felt to be lacking match-sharpness. Le Saux has been invited to join the squad for training while Pearce, though 38, has been told he is still in the frame.

One regular injury victim has, however, found a place. Darren Anderton, thrice called up by Keegan, but yet to physically appear, is back. Should he survive unscathed until Monday it will be his first appearance at England training in more than 18 months.

"We under-performed in the Championships, I took the blame and rightly so," said Keegan, who said he was happy with his much-criticised backroom staff and would not be adding to it.

He added: "I may change the way we play, it may depend on who is fit after the weekend matches. France may be world and European champions but this is a great game for us, sometimes after a bad result you are better off playing someone good."

But he cautioned: "If we play like we did in the championship, we will be in for a really hard time because they are exceptionally good at keeping the football. They are everything we want to be."




Goalkeepers: David Seaman (Arsenal), Nigel Martyn (Leeds Utd), David James (Aston Villa). Defenders: Tony Adams (Arsenal), Sol Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur), Martin Keown (Arsenal), Gareth Southgate (Aston Villa), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Gary Neville (Manchester Utd), Phil Neville (Manchester Utd), Rio Ferdinand (West Ham Utd). Midfielders: David Beckham (Manchester Utd), Paul Ince (Middlesbrough), Steve McManaman (Real Madrid), Paul Scholes (Manchester Utd), Dennis Wise (Chelsea), Nick Barmby (Liverpool), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Kieron Dyer (Newcastle Utd), Darren Anderton (Tottenham Hotpsur). Forwards: Andy Cole (Manchester Utd), Emile Heskey (Liverpool), Michael Owen (Liverpool), Kevin Phillips (Sunderland).


Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez (Manchester Utd), Bernard Lama (Stade Rennes), Ulrich Ramé (Bordeaux). Defenders: Laurent Blanc (Internazionale), Vincent Candela (Roma), Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf (both Chelsea), Bixente Lizarazu (Bayern Munich), Lilian Thuram (Parma). Midfielders: Didier Deschamps (Valencia), Youri Djorkaeff (Kaiserslautern), Christian Karembeu (Middlesbrough), Johan Micoud (Parma), Emmanuel Petit (Barcelona), Patrick Vieira (Arsenal), Zinedine Zidane (Juventus). Forwards: Nicolas Anelka (Paris St-Germain), Christophe Dugarry (Bordeaux), Thierry Henry, Robert Pires (both Arsenal), David Trézéguet (Juventus), Sylvain Wiltord (Bordeaux).