Venables extends a hand to Gascoigne

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL

BY GLENN MOORE

As far as Paul Gascoigne is concerned, all roads lead away from Rome. Yesterday his first destination was confirmed. It is Burnham Beeches, the England team hotel for this summer's Umbro Cup international tournament.

Gascoigne thus gets the chance to prove he can still mix it with the best with matches against Brazil, the World Cup winners, and Sweden, who were third. But, given Gascoigne's record, he will probably get injured in England's opening game, against Japan.

Gascoigne, who has not played for England since Terry Venables' first match against Denmark 14 months ago, will be joined by a number of new faces at England's Buckinghamshire base.

Gary Neville, the 20-year-old Manchester United full-back, Stan Collymore, the Nottingham Forest striker, and John Scales of Liverpool have all been given their first call-up. Gascoigne will also be able to compare notes on injuries with David Batty, who also returns to the squad after more than a year's absence with a broken foot.

Paul Ince is back too - for the moment. His trial on an assault charge continues at Croydon magistrates' court today and he may well be withdrawn if found guilty. But some old friends will not be there. Matthew Le Tissier, Gascoigne's only rival for the title of England's most creative player, is again omitted. Venables has also decreed that agents will not be allowed into the England camp for the two-week duration of the tournament.

This does not indicate any particular distrust of the breed, but is intended to ensure the likes of Gascoigne, Collymore and Warren Barton have their full attention on playing for England now, rather than on who they will be playing for next season. Collymore, who was included in Venables' England get-together last month, was the subject of a pounds 7m bid by Everton on Monday - despite being in Australia with his club at the time.

Venables, who strongly denied suggestions that he has advised Gascoigne against going to Rangers, was delighted to have the player back with England despite his lack of matches with Lazio. "He always seems to be at the critical stage of his career, ever since I have known him," the England coach said. "It is a bit of an unknown situation but the facts are he played magnificently in the World Cup a few years ago and we know what he is capable of. That sort of ability is important."

One would have thought Le Tissier has that same ability. Having been dropped because he was out of form when England last played - a sterile goalless draw with Uruguay - he has not been recalled despite recovering his form and lifting Southampton away from relegation. But perhaps Venables gave an unconscious indication of what he believes Le Tissier lacks when he added of Gascoigne: "I know Paul. The one thing you have to admire is he loves to play football. He is really patriotic. To play for England is very important to him."

No one could deny Gascoigne's competitiveness, even if it sometimes gets him into trouble. Le Tissier's is less evident and one suspects, like Anders Limpar at Everton, he will only show his best under a manager who gives him his full backing. The call-ups of Collymore and Scales are well merited, as is Neville's. The last does seem early but, with Rob Jones, Paul Parker, Sol Campbell, Barry Venison, David Bardsley and Lee Dixon all injured, Venables was running out of options. Neville, neat and intelligent, will not look out of place.

Also injured were Tim Sherwood, Neil Ruddock, David Seaman and Dennis Wise (though he may have been omitted anyway, given his possible jail term). Dropped from the last squad are Steve Howey, Robert Lee and Jamie Redknapp. Les Ferdinand, injured last time, has not been recalled. At least he will be able to talk to his agent.

ENGLAND SQUAD (Umbro Cup v Brazil, Sweden and Japan, 3-11 June): Flowers (Blackburn), Walker (Tottenham); Barton (Wimbledon), G Neville (Manchester Utd), Adams (Arsenal), Pallister (Manchester Utd), Scales (Liverpool), Le Saux (Blackburn), Pearce (Nottingham Forest), Anderton (Tottenham), Batty (Blackburn), Platt (Sampdoria), Ince (Manchester Utd), Gascoigne (Lazio), Barnes (Liverpool), McManaman (Liverpool), Barmby (Tottenham), Beardsley (Newcastle), Shearer (Blackburn), Collymore (Nottingham Forest), Cole (Manchester Utd), Sheringham (Tottenham). Stand-by: James (Liverpool), Shaw (Crystal Palace), Cooper (Nottingham Forest).

European Cup final preview, page 39

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