Hoddle may consider Beckham call

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The Independent Online
By the time he arrived at Filbert Street yesterday evening, Glenn Hoddle must have felt like one of those rock singers on tour who announces: "It's great to be in..." and then turns to his drummer and asks: "Where are we?"

Such has been the pace of Hoddle's assessment of England candidates that Leicester v Southampton was his fifth match in five days. Yet he still feels underprepared for today's announcement of his first squad, the one to open England's World Cup campaign in Moldova next Sunday.

"It has been a hectic start but I have still not seen all the games I would have liked," the England coach admitted yesterday. "Ideally, I would have liked another two weeks."

Unlike Terry Venables, who spent many hours watching matches on video, Hoddle prefers to see players in the flesh. "I could have watched videos, but it is always better to be there," he said.

Last night's match followed a long-distance haul from Blackburn (v Tottenham), to Southampton (v Chelsea), to Liverpool (v Arsenal), to Leeds (v Sheffield Wednesday). The most obvious omissions are Manchester United and Newcastle United, but Hoddle was at the Charity Shield.

This gave him a chance to see David Beckham, who could be his first debutant. Beckham has begun the season in excellent form, highlighted by his extraordinary goal against Wimbledon. With Paul Gascoigne and Jamie Redknapp struggling to be fit, there is a place for a new creative midfielder, but Beckham has competition.

Last night's choice of Filbert Street was significant, the only reason Hoddle could have gone there is Matt Le Tissier, who he had already seen on Sunday.

Le Tissier idolised Hoddle when he was developing his skills and his admiration is reciprocated. Le Tissier has lost weight this summer in an effort to make the squad, but apart from one moment of genius when he hit the bar, Hoddle could not have been impressed with him on Sunday. As he is a confidence player, it may be worth including Le Tissier in the squad, even if Hoddle does not intend to play him.

Dennis Wise, Hoddle's captain at Chelsea, was also unimpressive at The Dell, but there may be a recall for Mark Wright or Gary Pallister. Both missed Euro 96 with injury but are playing again. With Tony Adams injured, there is room for another central defender. Adams' absence, and David Platt's current injury problems, mean a new captain is required. Paul Ince, who led England in their infamous defeat to the United States is likely to be given the honour ahead of Stuart Pearce and may well keep it.

At least Hoddle will have the latest information on Adams and Platt. He has appointed Gary Lewin, the Arsenal physiotherapist, to the national squad. Lewin replaces the former Tottenham man Dave Butler.

With so few domestic matches played, and no international warm-up, Hoddle is bound to stick broadly to Venables' squad and shape. Moldova are a relatively new international team of limited ability and experience. They have only won one and drawn one of their last 11 games and England should beat them with ease.

But Moldova is also a poor, unfamiliar country, the sort of place where players can struggle to achieve their usual form. The need to get the approach right may mean Pearce is rewarded for reversing his international retirement with a 71st cap. Given Hoddle's preference for wing-backs, Alan Wright may also be given another taste of the international scene.

Hoddle has to balance the need for a win with his desire to shape the team on his lines. This afternoon we will find out whether the former pop singer intends to open with a cover version of Venables' hit, or with a new tune of his own.

POSSIBLE ENGLAND SQUAD (v Moldova, World Cup Qualifying Group Two, Chisinau, 1 Sept): Seaman, Walker, Flowers, G Neville, P Neville, M Wright, Southgate, Howey, Campbell, Pearce, A Wright, Ince, Beckham, Le Tissier, Anderton, McManaman, Stone, Sheringham, Barmby, Fowler, Shearer, Ferdinand.

Wembley prices rise, page 25

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