Beattie not backed by England

Last updated : 24 March 2003 By Christian Kelly

Rather than try and forge a partnership with two players not used to being in the same side, Eriksson chose the easy option of picking a ready made one from club level. In fact the Owen/ Heskey partnership is probably the only all English partnership in the league as well.

While the idea seems like a good one, it only works if both are top quality players. Even Liverpool fans think that Heskey is a big lump. He fares even worse in a direct comparison to Beattie.

Being a striker is all about scoring goals. Beattie has twenty compared to Heskey's paltry five. Many would also add that Heskey should be scoring a disproportionately higher amount due to the better service from a Liverpool midfield. He isn't, but I'm prepared to let that one go, as the Liverpool midfield is in fact rubbish.

That Beattie manages to get so many from so few opportunities and when the opposition know he's the main threat, speaks volumes about his ability. Let's face it, it's not as though England create many chances either so it's a match made in heaven. Beattie has the highest shots to goals ratio in the league after all.

Heskey does track back, something that he's often had to do to dig England out of whatever hole they've just dug for themselves. That's clearly something in his favour, but Beattie does it too, and has better distribution when he gets it back as well.

Assuming that the midfield can pass a ball accurately to their centre forward (something that England seem unable to do), then his ability to hold it up and distribute it are essential. Beattie is happy to make the best of whatever scraps he gets. He can shield the ball, create space for others and put in a very good cross as well. Heskey falls over a lot and that's about it.

Eriksson apparently hasn't been impressed by Beattie in the games he has been to see him in. That's fair enough. However looking at Beattie across a number of games and for the full ninety minutes rather than the fifty or so Eriksson sees, is sufficient to see the talent Beattie has. I would be very surprised if he thought that Heskey's performances were of a higher class.

Another thing in Heskey's favour could simply be that he has played in European competition. It's fair to say that he played like an utter lemon when he was there, but if all Eriksson is doing these days is looking at the team sheet then that might be reason enough to include him.

Of course, that Beattie was one of the few players to come out of the match against Australia at International level with any credit doesn't seem to matter. Beattie is simply a superior, ready made replacement to Beattie in all the key areas that England require.

Behind Heskey, Eriksson fails to provide another strong physical presence for Owen to work off of. This just underlines Heskey's inclusion on the basis of who his club partner is. When he isn't fit, Eriksson would prefer another slight striker.

Of those included, it would seem as though England really lack a proven goalscorer. Vassell's form hasn't been consistent and he has fewer than half of Beattie's goals. He also provides far less to his team than Beattie. I can see why he was included, but not at the expense of Beattie.

Even more alarming is the inclusion of Francis Jeffers. A back up player for Arsenal with a whopping two goals this season. Just because his club got into the second stages of the champions league doesn't mean that their squad players should be in the England team. By that reasoning, David May would be enjoying his 100th cap by now.

While Rooney is clearly a talent, his club manager doesn't want him there as he's trying to sort out the lad's temperament. While Eriksson seems quite happy to kowtow to the whims of Wenger and Ferguson, he could well be making an absolute mess of a potential star by ignoring Moyes.

In the end, Eriksson has made the simple easy choice. Unfortunately, those simple easy choices have resulted in some really lack lustre England performances. England will only ever get so far while this is the chosen route. They haven't a sniff of actually winning anything. Bringing in the likes of Beattie is hardly a high risk gambit. The man has been a prolific goalscorer for two seasons now. His inclusion in the squad, if not the team, for a more gradual inclusion in the England set up should have been the least Eriksson could have done.

Beattie shows no sign of ending his goalscoring. He has outgrown the purple patch to become a consistent goal scorer in any circumstance. England will need him sooner or later, and it's a mistake not to integrate him into the squad at the earliest opportunity.