France '98: The England 22

Ian Ridley analyses the qualities of the men in whom coach Glenn Hoddle will be placing his faith for France
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David Seaman (Arsenal), 34, 40 caps

ONE of England's few genuinely world-class players, as he showed at Euro 96 with his calm, upright and reassuring presence, which means England can approach penalty shoot-outs with some confidence. Did have some nervous moments early in the season, when a vulnerability to the long shot seemed evident again, but Alex Manninger's challenge to his position at Arsenal, which Seaman regained after a broken finger, appears to have stimulated him. Defenders love him for the way he dominates.

Tim Flowers (Blackburn Rovers), 31, 11caps

PROPENSITY for glaring errors, 18 months or so ago, led to him falling from favour, but as Roy Hodgson has led Blackburn Rovers back among the higher echelons of the Premiership, so Flowers has re-emerged into the England frame. His performance in England's 2-0 win over Italy in Le Tournoi last summer earned him much credit with Glenn Hoddle but he can still appear highly strung and hesitant, alternating with impetuous, at times. Good shot-stopper.

Nigel Martyn (Leeds United), 31, 7 caps

A SPLENDID performance against Belgium in Casablanca recently confirmed the Cornishman's place in the squad. Quite rightly, too, with Britain's first pounds 1m keeper - when he moved from Bristol Rovers to Crystal Palace in 1989 - having been a significant figure in Leeds United's revival under George Graham. The two dubious aspects of his game remain his wayward kicking of the back-pass and a tendency to dash out of his penalty area and commit himself.

Gary Neville (Manchester United), 23, 27 caps

VERSATILITY is an asset for the Manchester United right-back, who can push forward down the flank to get in some telling crosses - such as the one which Alan Shearer converted against Scotland in Euro 96 - or play more centrally in defence. Lately, indeed, Glenn Hoddle seems to have used him on the right side of a three-man back-line as he vies with Gareth Southgate for a place in the starting line-up. Pace a plus but his defect may be in the air up against taller strikers.

Martin Keown (Arsenal), 31, 18 caps

AN injury to Steve Bould at Arsenal last season allowed Keown in for more appearances than he might have expected and as a result of playing in the best defence in the English game, Keown finds himself back in the national squad. Renowned as a man-marker, he can also operate as a holding player in midfield. Great attribute is his pace, which enables him to make some timely covering tackles, but his positioning can be awry and his anxiety can undermine him.

Tony Adams (Arsenal), 31, 51 caps

WILL be a key figure for England as part of the spine - with Seaman, Ince and Shearer - in which Glenn Hoddle places great store. Probably fitter than at any other time in his career, having recovered from ankle and knee injuries, as well as confronted his alcoholism, and playing some of the most constructive and intelligent football of his life. Confident, too, after winning the Double with Arsenal. His role will be as the "spare" man in the back three and organising England's defences, as he did so ably against Italy in Rome.

Gareth Southgate (Aston Villa), 27, 25 caps

ONE of Glenn Hoddle's dependables and can be expected to start alongside Adams at the back. Southgate is a reliable and whole-hearted defender who concentrates well on the job and is worthy of being forgiven much - the odd missed tackle, some dodgy distribution - for an uncomplicated and committed approach, as well as the way he recovered stoically from the penalty miss at Euro 96. Thoroughly likeable, too, though as Glenn Hoddle has already shown, sentiment plays little part in his thinking.

Sol Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur), 23, 16 caps

TOTTENHAM'S travails in the Premiership last season eventually got to Campbell. After he manfully held the defence together for much of the season as many around him were crumbling, he looked weary and embattled towards the end of the season. Will have benefited from a spell around better defenders lately and after being rested from recent games, his powerful frame is likely once more to be challenging for the place on the left side of Hoddle's defence. Clever tackler, solid header, decent distributor.

Rio Ferdinand (West Ham), 19, 3 caps

A SURPRISING selection given his tender age and lack of caps, though his promise as a user of the ball at the back is immense and something that Glenn Hoddle may come to build on after this World Cup. Unlikely to get a game in France, but the whole experience of being around quality players at a major tournament should be of huge benefit. It will also give Hoddle the chance to work on his defending, which can be too casual at times, ready for Euro 2000.

Graeme Le Saux (Chelsea), 29, 25 caps

FIRST picked by Terry Venables, Le Saux has been an automatic choice when fit and one can only hope that his recent calf injury has fully healed. With Andy Hinchliffe and Phil Neville dropped from the squad, cover looks sparse. Spiky temperament can sometimes count against him but despite that, his disciplinary record is good and his will-to-win is commendable. As the only left-footer in the squad, his service to Alan Shearer resulting from his forays forward down the flank will be important.

David Beckham (Manchester United), 23,15 caps

NOW that Paul Gascoigne has been banished, more responsibility for the creative element of England's game may well fall on Beckham, along with the central midfield position that has always seemed his destiny. His ability to work the ball quickly lifts the pace of England's attacks, though he does not have an abundance of speed himself, nor the capacity to go past players consistently. What he does have is a wide range of passing and a fierce shot. If he starts scoring, England may have the right man at the right time.

Paul Ince (Liverpool), 30, 39 caps

ANOTHER element of the spine, Ince's healthy presence is also central to England's chances. He has looked latterly a little slower to join in any attacks - and his ability to make things happen around the opposition penalty area is an under-estimated part of his game - as he seems to settle simply for the holding role in midfield. His combative and inspirational value to Glenn Hoddle can be seen in the fact that the coach voted him in his top three for World Player of the Year.

David Batty (Newcastle United), 29, 31 caps

RARELY attempts anything more than a 15-yard pass but then he rarely gives the ball away and can usually be found in support of the player with the ball, who is grateful for the help. Whether Batty is as crucial to the team now that Paul Gascoigne is out and his replacement is more able to get up and down the field, is open to question, and it may now be that he becomes back-up for Ince. A spiky tackler, he will need to beware the stricter rules at the tournament.

Robert Lee (Newcastle United), 32, 17 caps

THE SORT of player coaches loves; give him a set of instructions and he will follow them. It is why he has always been Mr Reliable for Glenn Hoddle and why he has figured so frequently, despite an indifferent season with Newcastle. His presence in midfield alongside Ince and Batty always gives England a peas-in-a-pod look but he can understudy a variety of positions, mainly wing-back and just inside, and will be a safe and useful asset as back-up capable of pinching the odd goal.

Darren Anderton (Tottenham Hotspur), 26, 18 caps

ANOTHER who may benefit from the absence of Gascoigne, Anderton's late run, after playing only two full Premiership games all season, could see him in the right wing-back position ear-marked for David Beckham, who could now move into a more central role. His international quality, as subsequently demonstrated at Euro 96, was immediately evident on his debut against Denmark in 1995 and, for all the doubts, England can ill- afford to be without such passing and crossing talent.

Paul Merson (Middlesbrough), 30, 18 caps

A SPLENDID testimony to his rehabilitation after his drink, drugs and gambling addictions and an excellent season with Middlesbrough, Merson's inclusion is welcome as he is another with the skill and ingenuity to unlock top-class international defences with his acute eye for a pass and skilful ball play. His ability to operate as either a striker or midfield player - wide or just behind a target man - has undoubtedly worked in his favour and he looks likely to be an invaluable substitute.

Paul Scholes (Manchester United), 23, 7 caps

FOR half an hour against Saudi Arabia recently, Scholes and his Manchester United team-mate David Beckham ran the show and looked a potentially exciting midfield partnership. Although he faded a little, the bright and lively Scholes remains one of England's real goal threats, both as a provider and scorer - he has notched-up a goal on every other start. Clearly he paid attention while Eric Cantona was holding court at Old Trafford as he exhibits the same vision and intelligence.

Steve McManaman (Liverpool), 26, 21 caps

MAY well have profited from Paul Gascoigne being jettisoned. McManaman has not always been a favourite with Glenn Hoddle, especially after pulling out of Le Tournoi last summer, but England need a player with dribbling ability and the Liverpool player is the best Englishman in the Premiership at that, as his good Euro 96 performances showed. His final cross and finishing can still let him down but his second-half showing against Morocco recently showed that he can be an ace in the pack.

Alan Shearer (Newcastle United), 27, 39 caps

IF England are to have any chance of progressing a long way in the competition, then much rests on Shearer's contribution; as was seen at Euro 96 when he scored five goals. Such a tally would be welcome again in his quest for the Golden Boot and, as long as his muscular style is not negated, he should prove himself one of the top five strikers in the world, provided he receives some decent crosses to make use of his exceptional heading. His captaincy, exemplary rather than noisy, will also be crucial.

Teddy Sheringham (Manchester United), 32, 33 caps

SUDDENLY Sheringham's once automatic place as Shearer's partner up front is under threat as a result of both his mediocre season with Manchester United and the emergence of Michael Owen. Sheringham's shrewd footballing brain, with his ability to pick out a run so beloved by Shearer, could be just what is needed against astute international defenders in the finals, however. Heading ability also invaluable and he is still the man in possession.

Michael Owen (Liverpool), 18, 5 caps

INITIALLY Owen is likely to be a substitute but if he comes off the bench and does what he did in Morocco in becoming the youngest player ever to score for England, then Glenn Hoddle may not be able to hold his not-so-secret weapon back for too much longer. His pace is frightening and his body swerves are unnerving for senior defenders. For the rest of us, eyes light up when he receives the ball. Clearly still developing both as a creator and finisher; just what will he be like when he is the finished article?

Les Ferdinand (Tottenham Hotspur), 31, 17 caps

LIKE his cousin Rio, a surprising selection given his injury problems all season and his hardly impressive form when given a chance in the late warm-up games. In fact, had Ian Wright been fit, he probably would not have gone but wins his place because Hoddle needs a quick striker as cover for Owen. Wonderful jumper for a cross but not always the most accurate of headers, nor does he have a great first touch. Physical power, though, could be an alternative for England's game.

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