Ince inches back

thinks Terry Venables will turn again to the Internazionale player
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The Independent Online
LIMITED by time and insufficient preparatory matches before the European Championship, Terry Venables is expected to overlook his doubts about the temperament and reliability of Paul Ince and return him to the England fold on Wednesday when he announces his squad for a friendly match against Bulgaria on 27 March.

Although still not convinced that Ince has the ability to anchor an England midfield, Venables will have watched the former Manchester United player's recent performances for Internazionale and probably felt that it was time to give this abrasive character the benefit of his doubts. Last weekend Ince even won over the last of his Italian sceptics when he stood solidly against the greater skills of Milan and guaranteed a 1-0 win.

Of equal interest in Venables's deliberations will be whether he can afford to restore the man who is still officially captain, David Platt, to the team, and if Robbie Fowler's precocious goalscoring talent needs to be thrust into the side in order to give him some international experience before he could become the player to surprise the best international teams in Europe.

If newcomers are to prosper they must have experienced support, which is exactly why Ince, with his day-to-day association with some of the finest players in the world, can hardly continue to be overlooked. He was ignored by Venables after he moved to Italy and, with hindsight, he feels that the coach was right.

"He knew I was having a struggle to get established," Ince confirmed. "He thought if I went back to England too soon, even for a few days, it would only make things worse."

Ince was included in an England squad get-together in January and since then he has settled in well at Internazionale, not least because of the arrival of the English coach Roy Hodgson who has fended off a number of transfer inquiries, including one from Arsenal who liked the idea of linking Ince with Platt, another player with Italian experience. Ince's own experience in Serie A could well have been similar to that of Paul Gascoigne, and others, who never worked hard enough to become assimilated into the Italian way of life. Yet Gascoigne remains firmly in Venables's thoughts for the European Championship. He can only hope that this capricious talent will not act the fool in today's Glasgow derby.

Pressure on Venables to promote the Greaves-like Fowler to a full international place is likely to be resisted. But squad membership is certain and probably an appearance, though only as a substitute to replace Teddy Sheringham or Alan Shearer. Although he is unlikely to be involved himself, Venables must be thinking that Fowler has ample time to take his place before the next World Cup. Regrettably, many an England coach or manager before him has delayed too long before giving youth its chance. Fowler has the matter- of-fact outlook to take international football in his frisky stride but he may well have to wait until next winter to see his England hopes fully fulfilled.

Disappointing a young lion is one thing, but telling someone who has been a tiger for his country that he is not up to the task is another. Venables has seen Platt return to fitness for Arsenal but not to anything like the form that used to see him burst out of midfield and score goals that rescued England. Platt is highly unlikely to lose his squad place, but if Ince returns to the team and Steve Stone continues to act as the side's most productive newcomer, Platt's international future is in question.