Jansen attributes England summons to help from Cole

Blackburn forward praises snubbed team-mate for boosting his chances of World Cup place
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The Independent Football

It says something for the level of Matt Jansen's international expectations that he had already booked his summer holidays when told he had been called up by England.

The highlight of his trip to Canada was to be his role as an usher at his brother's wedding in Vancouver, which is pencilled in for 15 June, the day England might be playing France in the second round of this summer's World Cup. The potential for family discord is rife. His father has already stated his preference to watch Matt in Japan than see Joe Jansen walk Astrid up the aisle. "I'm sure it will be forgiven," he smiled.

As Darius Vassell demonstrated in Amsterdam, one touch, one goal, can take you a very long way and tomorrow the Blackburn striker will have perhaps as little as 45 minutes against Paraguay to make his case.

Jansen would settle for that. When he failed to make Sven Goran Eriksson's squad which was to be beaten by Italy last month, he reasoned that there was little point building up his hopes. In the depths of his mind may have lurked the suspicion that he was still suffering the after-effects of a three-month ban imposed on himself, Seth Johnson and Lee Hendrie after the trio broke a curfew during England's disastrous display in the European Under-21 Championships in Slovakia.

"When it happened it was too soon for me to be called into any squad, but since Graeme Souness came in as manager he has been playing me as an out-and-out striker and my form's been better."

Had Eriksson selected a striker from Blackburn with the World Cup in mind, you would have imagined Andy Cole might have been sitting in front of the microphones of England's hotel in the Cheshire countryside. But it appears the man who has scored more European goals for Manchester United than anyone else will have to come to terms with the fact that his international days are done.

"I spoke to Andy this morning and he wished me all the best and gave me a hug," said Jansen, who acknowledges that Cole's arrival at Ewood Park has honed his own game, both in teaching him movement off the ball and creating space for Jansen's own talents to shine. "We are short of strikers at the club, I was playing as a lone forward and I'm not the biggest bloke in the world so I struggled. But since Andy's come it's been a breath of fresh air."

It has been a strange, almost surreal season at Ewood Park. Their victory over Tottenham in the Worthington Cup final has ensured Blackburn's participation in the Uefa Cup and they might with a little more luck have beaten both Arsenal and Manchester United home and away. Yet they have lost home and away to Derby County and Sunderland and were well beaten by Leicester, results which when consigned to the pages of Rothman's Football Yearbook will seem inexplicable.

"We seem to lift our game for the most important matches and I have every confidence I can make the step up, internationally," said Jansen. "I have learned a lot from Graeme Souness. His style is to toughen you up but, before, he said I was running down blind alleys and said I was a 'bit of a circus act'. He's pleased with the way I have come on."

Ever since taking his first steps in the professional game in the exciting side Mervyn Day fashioned at Carlisle, which produced the likes of Seth Johnson and Rory Delap, it seemed a given that the policeman's son from the Border Country would one day play for England.

At 24 he is still young but his chance might have arrived earlier had he made different choices. Manchester United offered him a contract, but Jansen opted instead for a Crystal Palace side that was to be miserably relegated in 1998.

He might have exchanged the soon-to-be bankrupt ruins of Selhurst Park for Newcastle, the club he supported as a boy, but negotiations broke down with the Magpies' chairman, Freddie Shepherd letting it be known that Jansen's personal terms were "outrageous". This was denied by the player's representatives, and Jansen opted to go to Blackburn, who were promptly relegated.

"I felt it was too soon to go to Manchester United because I wanted to play first-team football and had more chance of getting it at Crystal Palace. I enjoyed my time there but I could have progressed more if I'd gone to United," Jansen now admits.

"It would have raised my profile. Playing in Europe week-in, week-out makes it easier to get into the England squad. But I have been given a chance and players in lesser teams have been given a chance. And now it's up to us to take it."