It has been a long time since Blackpool were able to take a direct interest in the England team. Jimmy Armfield apart, no one has regularly worn both tangerine and white since the days when Sir Stanley Matthews was on the wing and Stan Morte-nsen in the middle.
Next week, however, when Terry Venables decides his final XI to face Switzerland in a friendly international at Wembley, Bloomfield Road will be watching carefully. The Lancashire club stands to earn a pounds 50,000 bonus if one of their former starlets, Trevor Sinclair, plays for his country. Yesterday Sinclair, now at Queen's Park Rangers, took the penultimate step when he was named, for the first time, in an England squad.
But while Sinclair became the latest member of Venables' England club, Paul Ince remained outside. He will thus miss the chance to impress his club manager, Roy Hodgson, at international level. Hodgson is managing both Internazionale and Switzerland.
Venables, who watched the former England captain in action for Inter on Sunday, said the door was still ajar, but admitted the time when he would have to shut it for good was drawing near.
For Sinclair, however, the future is bright indeed. As a player who can play wide or through the middle, he is less of an heir to Matthews or Mortensen than Tom Finney, one of the few English players to be blessed with such attacking versatility. Sinclair, of course, has a long way to go to match Finney's standards.
Sinclair is being bracketed in the pounds 10m range - what, one wonders, would Finney have cost if playing now. International exposure is bound to increase speculation, although the club is quick to point out he has recently signed a new deal. Blackpool, who stand to reap 20 per cent profit on any transfer, are watching closely.
There are two notable features in Sinclair's development. He chose Blackpool in preference to both Manchester clubs because he felt he would gain a better upbringing at a smaller club, and is a graduate of the FA National School of Excellence. Both the school, and several small clubs, are under threat of closure.
"He is in outstanding form," Venables said yesterday. "He has also played a lot of England games at youth and Under-21 level and looked very happy in that environment."
Venables said he felt Ince needed more time to settle in Italy. "It is hard anyway, and in his case, the nature of his game has made him more apprehensive because of the way referees are reacting to it. On Sunday, I saw him make a brilliant tackle yet have a foul given against him. It is very frustrating. He is proud enough to want to make a success of it, but he is wise enough to know if the club do not want him, there is little point in staying. At least he now has a manager [Hodgson is English] who understands his problems and his language.
"After Christmas I will have to make a decision on him, but like John Barnes, he is an experienced player and I would have no qualms about bringing him in."
Barnes, though fit and in form, has been omitted after missing the Norway game through injury. David Platt's scoring ability has ensured his swift return while Peter Beardsley is also back - and none too soon as Nick Barmby is out after twisting an ankle in training.
Switzerland will be useful opposition. Well-organised with some sharp forwards, they are effectively through to the European Championship next summer. It was not always thus. Armfield once captained England to an 8-1 away win against them. A repeat is not expected.
SWITZERLAND SQUAD: Pascolo, Lehmann; Geiger, Henchoz, Herr, Hottiger, Quentin, Thueler, Vega, Wolf, Colombo, Fournier, Ohrel, Sforza, Sutter, Wicky.
ENGLAND UNDER-21 SQUAD (for European Championship qualifier v Austria, Middlesbrough, 14 Nov): Gerrard (Oldham), Oakes (Aston Villa), Watson (Newcastle), Gordon (C Palace), Campbell, Nethercott ( both Tottenham), Unsworth (Everton), Pollock (Middlesbrough), Roberts (C Palace), Butt (Man Utd), Eadie (Norwich), Bart-Williams (Nottm Forest), Holland (Newcastle), Shipperley (Southampton), Booth (Huddersfield), Fowler (Liverpool). On stand-by: Day (Tottenham), Elliott (Newcastle), P Neville (Man Utd), Hall (Coventry), Scimeca (A Villa), Beckham, Scholes (both Man Utd), Grant (Everton), Whelan (Leeds).
(for friendly v Switzerland at Wembley on 15 November)
Seaman (Arsenal), Flowers (Blackburn); G Neville (Man Utd), Jones (Liverpool), Pearce (Nottm Forest), Le Saux (Blackburn), Adams (Arsenal), Pallister (Man Utd), Howey (Newcastle), Southgate (Aston Villa), Platt (Arsenal), Gascoigne (Rangers), Lee (Newcastle), McManaman (Liverpool), Redknapp (Liverpool), Stone (Nottm Forest), Sinclair (QPR), Wise (Chelsea), Beardsley (Newcastle), Shearer (Blackburn), Sheringham (Tottenham), Ferdinand (Newcastle).Reuse content