Fowler focuses on final push

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Newcastle United are not the only Geordies who have suddenly had to appreciate the threat of Liverpool. Another Tynesider, Alan Shearer, also now knows what it is like to have them breathing down your neck, even if in theory Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore are supposed to be on the same side as their esteemed England colleague.

The belated arrival yesterday of the deadly Liverpool duo at the start of the national squad's three-day get-together at Bisham certainly spiced up the proceedings. Unfortunately, Paul Ince, who has had to wait over a year to renew his acquaintance with England team-mates will have to wait at least one more day. He managed to catch the plane from Milan in time on Sunday, after starring for Internazionale at Vicenza, but had to give in to a back injury.

"He might feel better tomorrow, if not, we will have to see him another time," said Terry Venables, the England coach. Ince is due back in Italy tomorrow to start preparing for next Sunday's big Serie A match with Parma.

With only 18 outfield players permitted for the finals of the European Championship it seems unlikely that the Liverpool pair's partnership of 17 goals in the last nine games will be transported now to the international stage. But one of them might make it to the finals with a late run, a la Roger Hunt, their Liverpool predecessor, in 1966.

The inclusion of Fowler in the senior squad is not before time, though he did gain some valuable work experience when he and three other members of the England Under-21 squad - Jamie Redknapp, Nick Barmy and Sol Campbell - were called up prior to the match against the United States 16 months ago.

The 20-year-old his all-round game has improved since then, for which he was indebted to the advice of Ian Rush. Despite the late call-up, Venables insisted Fowler had always been in his mind, but warned: "The competition is very finely balanced up front and he's got to force out some pretty formidable names. The door's ajar."

Darren Anderton, out of action since September after a second operation to repair groin muscle damage, played the last 18 minutes of Tottenham's reserve match last night and is considering an invitation from Venables to attend the last day of the get-together.

A young man's game it may be, but not when it comes to international management, according to Venables. He was not about to disagree with his No 2 Bryan Robson, who believed that the England job Venables is due to vacate after Euro 96 had come too soon for him. "I've always felt it was a job for an older man because you've got to have certain attitudes. Preferably about 86," he added with a cheeky chappie grin.