Fowler firmly bent on redress

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The Independent Online
Robbie Fowler plans to exorcise the worst memory of his short, but stunningly successful career by transferring his prodigious goalscoring record for Liverpool to the international stage.

The Liverpool marksman spearheads the England attack in their final and decisive European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Austria at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium tonight.

It was in the corresponding fixture in Austria last year that Fowler was sent off after seeing his Anfield team-mate, Jamie Redknapp, inspire the team to victory with a superb hat-trick.

"Everything was going really well," Fowler said. "We were 3-1 up, then I went and got myself sent off. It's not my happiest memory in football.

"My sending off took all the headlines away from Jamie. I thought the dismissal was totally out of order but had to accept it. I ended up missing the next four games, which was very disappointing. I hope I can make up for what happened with a goal against them."

England need to beat Austria, then they must hope the Republic of Ireland gain at least a draw against Portugal, the Group Six leaders. That would allow Dave Sexton's team, who collected one point from a possible six against the Portuguese, to claim the solitary qualifying place. "Robbie owes us a goal," Sexton said . "He has not scored many for us. But he is like Jimmy Greaves. He has that same low centre of gravity and is a similar type of finisher, though he will be a lot stronger physically. This is our most important game. We have got to win and hope that the Republic can get a result in Portugal."

Fowler also knows international goals will be vital as he attempts to make the full senior squad in time for next year's European Championship. He said: "I've scored twice in seven games for the Under-21s and, though some people would be happy with that, I'm not. I want to score in every game.

"Jamie and Steve McManaman have both made the step-up from the Under- 21s and it's my aim to follow them."

Sexton's build-up has been affected by the withdrawals through injury of the captain and regular keeper, Paul Gerrard, of Oldham (knee), Norwich's Darren Eadie and Dean Gordon of Crystal Palace (both thigh). David Unsworth, of Everton, has been given the captaincy while Newcastle's Robbie Elliott is drafted in.

In addition to the returning Fowler, the Aston Villa goalkeeper Michael Oakes, Manchester United's Nicky Butt and Chris Bart-Williams, of Nottingham Forest, are the other changes to the side which drew a friendly in Norway last month.

Scotland's Under-21 side continue their attempt to qualify for the last eight of the European Championship against San Marino at Firhill tonight, seeking a seventh successive group win. If Finland fail to collect three points in Russia, the Scots will qualify for the quarter-finals regardless of the result in Glasgow.

Dundee United's Christian Dailly extends his record of Under-21 caps to 30, while Dailly's Tannadice team-mate, Steven Pressley, will captain the side. The Southampton reserve, Paul Sheerin, is given a debut at this level in midfield. The two strikers will be Jim Hamilton, of Dundee, and Andy Liddell, of Barnsley. Celtic's Simon Donnelly and Neil McCann, of Dundee, will be on the wings.

Under-21 teams,

Sporting Digest, page 27