Seaman `suits the occasion'

David Seaman has more Wembley memories than most: he conceded a 40-yard free-kick to Paul Gascoigne in the FA Cup semi-final; he won and lost Euro 96 penalty shoot-outs; he has even watched Rod Stewart play there in the pouring rain. Tomorrow, however, he will represent his country on a bittersweet night more laden with emotion than even the twin towers could recall.

Seaman was yesterday chosen by Glenn Hoddle to captain England in tomorrow's World Cup tie against Moldova. He has been granted the honour, despite Hoddle's admitted dislike of goalkeeper-captains, because the England coach feels that he has the character to handle a singular occasion and the status to grace it.

"He suits the occasion," Hoddle said. "He has the respect of players and public alike, is as experienced as anyone in the squad and at the top of his game. He is a smashing lad, always looking on the positive but always in control of his emotions. No one knows what the evening will be like but I'm sure he will be able to deal with it."

Seaman received the MBE during the summer and Hoddle added: "That honour goes with the situation. There is a job to be done. Many people will have gone back to work today, we have to do that on Wednesday."

Seaman, who has previously led Arsenal and Queen's Park Rangers, is Hoddle's fifth captain - Alan Shearer, Tony Adams and Stuart Pearce are injured and Paul Ince suspended. He said: "The worst time will be up to the kick- off. We will all be thinking of Diana but after the national anthem I think the players' mood will change because we have a job to do. We will show our respects before that."

Seaman feels a particular empathy with the tragedy, as his fiancee's mother died less than a month ago. "It has been a bad month and an emotional time," he admitted. He and his girlfriend laid flowers at Kensington Palace and signed the condolence book at Harrods on Friday evening.

"You could see what it meant to everybody," he said. "There was a load of nationalities there, not just English, all laying flowers. It was strange, a lot of people recognised me but no one bothered me for an autograph. Normally people do but they were there to pay their respects to Diana. I noticed it straight away."

The England squad are donating their match fees to the Memorial Fund. They, the FA and other authorities are still discussing whether, and when, "Candle in the Wind" should be played. Elton John had been approached with a view to performing his tribute but will be in New York. A decision will be made on the night after assessing the mood. "There is a danger that it could become a wake," admitted David Davies, the FA's Director of Public Affairs.

There will be other gestures with the team likely to wear a black ribbon, as Greg Rusedski did in the US tennis Open, rather than an armband.

Les Ferdinand said most of the team had watched the funeral at their homes. "No one could have played on Saturday but now we have to concentrate on the job in hand," he added.

"I think people are over it now and getting on with their lives, but it was very emotional watching it. It's such a pity it took a tragedy like that to bring the nation together. I hope we can give everybody a lift."

England should manage that although, as Hoddle noted, an early goal would probably do a lot to lift the mood and ease the tension on the night. Seaman is likely to find himself a remote captain, with much of the play at the other end. This would not normally be ideal but Hoddle's choice is justified in the unique circumstances.

Gary Pallister, somewhat ironically given his weekend interview, is doubtful after missing training yesterday with a stiff back. David Batty opted out of the squad match at the end of the session to nurse a foot injury which has been troubling him for a while.

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