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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 18:23 GMT


I've rarely seen anything worse

Most of the time it was Scotland who looked as if they had an extra man

Former England striker Trevor Brooking says Kevin Keegan faces a tough task reforming his side from one which produced one of the worst performances in living memory to championship contenders.

England's performance at Wembley was one of the poorest I can remember.

I'd even go so far as to say that over the two legs Scotland were the better team.

Battle of Britain

But if you are looking at who might do better at Euro 2000 you've got to say it would be England.

Not in their current shape, though. Playing like this they will get beaten by most teams.

Kevin Keegan has been in an awkward position in that he came into the job in the middle of the qualification campaign and had no time to experiment.

Now he has six months to sort things out.


[ image: Keegan: Tough six month's ahead]
Keegan: Tough six month's ahead
It is a big test for him. He has got the motivational skills but he faces some tough tactical decisions.

He needs to find a formula to get the best out of his young talent. At the moment you are looking a group of individuals who are not playing as a team.

Keegan's number one priority is to decide on a system that suits his players.

If he is going to persist playing 4-4-2 he needs at least two left-sided players. At the moment England are having problems finding just one.

It's not a question of picking your best players and then swapping round systems to suit them. England won the World Cup in 1966 by picking a system, actually one without wingers, and sticking to it.


[ image: McCann is no world beater but his runs down the left undid England]
McCann is no world beater but his runs down the left undid England
That might mean picking one or two players who on paper are not as talented as others.

Craig Brown made two changes to his side for the second leg - he brought in Neil McCann and Callum Davidson.

Both are natually left footed but neither are first choices for their clubs.

They may not be as talented as one or two others but they gave Scotland great width and shape.

With Graeme Le Saux injured, the only two left-sided players Keegan had were Steve Guppy and Steve Froggatt and I would have certainly played one of them at Wembley.

Personally I think the system that best suits England is 3-5-2. Both Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle found a degree of success with it.


[ image: 4-4-2: Shape of things to come?]
4-4-2: Shape of things to come?
But playing three at the back is not popular with some of the players and certainly many of the top sides such as Arsenal have gone back to a flat back-four.

But if you have not got the players in your squad you cannot do that.

I think a back four do not keep the ball as well as when there are only three back there to knock it around. At international level you cannot give it away as we did every two or three passes at Wembley.

That was one of the most shocking elements of that performance, England broke the golden rule that you do not give the ball away cheaply.

Against top sides we will be severely punished.


[ image: England fired only blanks at Wembley]
England fired only blanks at Wembley
Keegan now has time to experiment although his most valuable time will be the three weeks he gets with the team immediately before the tournament.

That will be the longest spell he will ever have with them, that will be the make or break time.

Keegan's second priority is sorting out his difficulties up front.

England still have problems scoring, it's just lucky Scotland have even more. I'm not sure the side look balanced playing two out and out goalscorers in Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.

Most sides like to have one striker and someone else up there dropping deeper in the mould of Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke or Peter Beardsley, who used to do that with Gary Lineker so well.

Shearer?: Jury still out

Shearer is not the force he used to be but neither is he as bad as many people are making out.

The time to really judge him will be when England find a system that allow them to get the crosses into him.

Scotland scored from McCann's cross from the left and Barry Ferguson nearly got one from a similar ball from Davidson.

I have a little bit of sympathy for England at Wembley - at 2-0 up you are between two stools and never quite know whether to defend or attack.

But that indecision would hardly have mattered had England's shape been OK.

As it was, as soon as Scotland took the initiative and England felt all those negative vibes, the side fell apart.

Keegan has also got to decide where it is best to play David Beckham, you certainly don't want him scampering back to the right-back position all the time as he did at Wembley.

If Keegan does all those things I believe he is right when he says we can still win the thing.

But it will take a huge, and I mean huge, improvement.



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