Platt moves forward to help Shearer

Glenn Moore watches England prepare for Wednesday's friendly with Switzerland
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The Independent Online
Two hundred and thirty-two minutes and counting. That is how long it is since England last scored an international goal. It may be no coincidence that, for the last 180 of those minutes, David Platt has been missing.

The England captain scored 26 goals in 55 matches before a knee operation caused him to miss the goalless draws with Colombia and Norway. It is quite a record - a notably better one than the incumbent centre-forward, Alan Shearer. He has scored five goals in 19 games and none in the last eight.

Interestingly, the two were paired in attack at Bisham Abbey yesterday as England prepared for next Wednesday's friendly with Switzerland at Wembley. Goals in England training sessions are as rare as in the real thing but, this time, Shearer promptly scored.

Afterwards, Platt gave a lucid assessment of the problems international defences present for Shearer, and the opportunities they offer to himself.

"Alan should not be expected to score all the goals, they should be shared around the team. The public should not underestimate the difficulty of playing up front and being marked by a player who has been instructed to follow you around and do nothing else," he said.

"It is no good using a player like Alan as a target. You have to get behind the defence, give the marker two different points to watch. When the ball and player are both in front of him it is easy for him.

"Sometimes we hit the ball too early. It is no good hitting it long into Alan if the team has 40-50 yards to make up. The team has to come up together. When you have robbed the ball in midfield and are counter-attacking you go forward quickly, but when the opposition have been able to get nine men behind the ball - and they do in international football - you have to wait and bring it up together.

"The thing is to keep the ball moving, rather than hold on to it and look for the 'killer ball'. Defences are happy to let a player keep it as they do not have to move. If you move the ball around they have to readjust.

"It is easier coming from deep. There is less space at the sharp end. Coming from midfield you can see where the space is, you are often unmarked - or 'running marked', the two of you running together. It is then a matter of finding the space, going into it and hoping the ball arrives. You need both.

"If you are playing off the main striker how deep you play depends on the defence. If they are playing one sweeper and two markers you have to go very deep to find space as the defender will come with you. He knows there is still a spare man. If you are playing against a back four you get more space as they are less keen to go forward.

"Bergkamp and Baggio have both been successful coming from deep. Bergkamp gets space with Holland as they play with two wide men - the defence has to play with full-backs and are more likely to use a back four."

The squad's other main striker, Les Ferdinand, was the only player to miss training yesterday. He has a slight groin strain but is expected to train this morning. Terry Venables has given Paul Gascoigne permission to play for Rangers this weekend while Jamie Redknapp and Robert Lee are expected to appear in Alvin Martin's testimonial match.

Venables, meanwhile, was in combative mood when his latest court case was mentioned. He is being sued and, when one of his tabloid inquisitors asked if he would appear as a witness, responded: "When you are being sued you have to - as you will find out." Venables is unlikely to be required in court until December. In the meantime, he said: "At these times it is better for me to be working with the players. My time will come. There is a lot I want to say but I have been told not to."

For the moment then, his talking must be done on the pitch. After two silent matches he will hoping for a more eloquent display on Wednesday.

n Switzerland have qualified for the European Championship finals, although it took Uefa, European football's governing body, almost a month to work out that a 3-0 win over Hungary in October would bring the Swiss to England next year. "Mathematically, yes, Switzerland have qualified," a Uefa spokesman said yesterday. "But it is a complicated calculation."