Kevin Keegan never quite
realised the dreams of the Toon Army when he was manager at Newcastle, but
yesterday he made one Geordie's fantasy come true. Keegan, faced with the loss
of three of his five strikers, called up Newcastle-born Tottenham striker Chris
Armstrong for England's World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley on
The summons was a shock for
Armstrong, not least because he has been chosen ahead of his team-mate Les
Ferdinand, who kept him on the bench for Sunday's Worthington Cup Final success
over Leicester. Ironically Armstrong's first training session with the England
squad will be at Wembley this morning.
Armstrong is certain to be on
the bench at least on Saturday with Alan Shearer and Andy Cole likely to play up
front following yesterday's withdrawal of Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Chris
Sutton. Keegan also lost Darren Anderton who, within hours after extolling
Eileen Drewery's healing powers on television on Tuesday night, succumbed to his
latest groin strain.
There was better news for
Keegan with both his goalkeepers, David Seaman and Nigel Martyn, showing
promising improvement with their respective shoulder and back injuries.
For a coach who has spent most
of his working life surrounding himself with forwards, Keegan must have felt
very lonely as he coached England yesterday. With Newcastle or Fulham, the
solution would have been simple - phone the chairman, ask for his cheque book,
and sign someone. With England it is not so simple. With so many foreign players
filling the striking positions (Cole is the only English forward among the top
three Premiership teams), it is a case of scouring clubs for a fit and eligible
Keegan came up with Armstrong
whose initial international experience was playing in goal for North Wales. He
later won an England B cap but has never been close to the full squad before.
The call-up caps a remarkable
rise for a player who gave up the game at 16. After living on Tyneside and in
South London with his natural family, he spent time in childrens' homes before
being fostered by Roy and Pam Armstrong in North Wales. Although he played in
goal for his local club he did play outfield at school but stopped at 16 to work
in a burger bar for pounds 30 a week as a YTS school leaver. A friend persuaded
him to play again and he was spotted by Wrexham. Transfers to Milwall and
Crystal Palace followed before he was signed, for pounds 4.5million to replace
Jurgen Klinsmann at White Hart Lane in August 1995.
The 27-year-old began well with
15 league goals in his first season but has since been troubled with injury.
Keegan, however, said of him: "He has pace and won't let us down. He has had a
good season and I know we can rely on him.
"I believed that one or two of
the players who had problems might have recovered in time but we have been out
of luck. With Michael Owen it was a battle against the clock and I just could
not risk either him or the others."
Keegan stressed that Armstrong
was in as cover and alluded to the difficulties he had faced when he pointed out
that even the under-21s had lost Emile Heskey, who might have stepped up if fit.
Anderton's withdrawal increases
the likelihood that either Ray Parlour or Tim Sherwood or both will make a debut
on Saturday. Arsene Wenger, Parlour's club manager at Arsenal, said he was
confident that Parlour could play in a central midfield role thus releasing
David Beckham to play on the right where his crossing ability could prove
Wenger said: "He loves to work
for the team, has good vision, is powerful, and can provide acceleration in
bringing the ball out." - The Independent 25 March 1999