Jeffers resolves to fight for first-team place
Thursday 17 October 2002
Francis Jeffers indicated his mood will sour if Arsène Wenger does not reward his England Under-21 hat-trick heroics, but still rules out quitting Highbury in search of regular first-team football.
The £10m man suffered an ankle injury after his switch from Everton in 2001 and is now behind Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Kanu and even midfielder and part-time striker Sylvain Wiltord in Wenger's pecking order. Jeffers offered a glimpse of his potential in Tuesday's 3-1 European Championship qualifier victory against Macedonia at the Madejski Stadium. The 21-year-old, who has made two appearances off the bench for the Gunners this season, also scored twice in Friday's 4-0 victory in Slovakia. And with Arsenal facing his former club at Goodison Park on Saturday, Jeffers, who now averages a goal a game from his 12 under-21 appearances, could not fail to have jogged Wenger's thinking.
He said: "Scoring five goals in two games is a great achievement, so I'm very happy at the moment. But, at the end of the day, I want to get into Arsenal's team. Playing on Saturday would be very nice, going back to my old club – so I'll wait and see. It gets difficult for any footballer once you've been injured for three or four weeks. You start to get bored and think what you could be doing if you were playing."
The Irish Football Association are waiting to hear from Uefa before deciding whether to conduct their own inquiry into an alleged incident at the end of the European Under-21 Championship match at Ballymena on Tuesday. There were chaotic scenes in the tunnel after Northern Ireland had drawn 1-1 against Ukraine. Players from both sides jostled and argued following a highly competitive match. The Ukrainians have lodged an official protest with Uefa, claiming one of the Irish players assaulted midfielder Andrei Berezovchuk.
Following the Republic of Ireland Under-21 3-2 defeat by Switzerland, the Ireland manager Don Givens has advised clubs short of wingers to take a look Shelbourne's Wes Houlihan. "I would recommend him to any club looking for a wide player," said Givens. "He is magnificent and improving all the time. I can see a huge improvement since he joined us six months ago."
Givens admitted he was very disappointed with the manner of Ireland's defeat at Buckley Park, Kilkenny. Ireland led 2-0 after eight minutes, but then conceded three goals, meaning they remain pointless in European Championship Group 10. "It's very disappointing and all the players are gutted," said Givens. "We played far better than we did in Russia, but individual mistakes cost us."
Jamie Tolley could become the next Wales youngster to be fast-tracked into the senior Wales squad by coach Mark Hughes. The Shrewsbury player was delighted after his outstanding display in the 2-1 defeat by the Italian Under-21 side at Ninian Park on Tuesday, capped off by a brilliant long-range strike. Cardiff are believed to have offered £500,000 for him last season and although Shrewsbury rejected that bid it seems likely that Tolley will go on to perform at a higher level. Only just 19, the Ludlow-born midfielder spoke of his ambitions after just four under-21 appearances. "I obviously want to play at a higher level, any player would. I have set my dreams on going as high as I can," he said.
"At the moment I am doing my very best for Shrewsbury, and hoping to impress for Wales, then hopefully, one day, I will move up in my career. I have to keep plugging away and improving my football."
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