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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
The James Beattie column
Why is it that an England international match always seems to pose more questions than it answers?
Alan Smith certainly did his cause no harm, but one of the questions that constantly pops up is who is the better out of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge?
I'm biased, but I think Bridgey is the better player, but then I'd expect Ashley Cole's Arsenal team-mates to say the same thing.
My solution to the problem would be to try and find room for both.
Neither of them would be out of place in midfield.
They both know how to defend, they're both good going forward and they are both naturally left-footed players.
After Stuart Pearce's retirement there was a lot of concern about the lack of good left-backs.
Now, England have two excellent ones to pick from.
The other question surrounds the relevance of friendly international matches.
Mr Eriksson's tendency to make wholesale changes in friendlies lays him open to criticism of treating them like training matches.
I think friendly internationals are vital. They are often the only chance the England squad have of getting together before qualifying games for major tournaments.
Mr Erikssson is in a bit of a no-win situation. If he didn't have friendly internationals he would be accused of going into major tournaments under-prepared.
A twist of the international fixture list saw some of my Southampton team-mates up against each other.
My little striking partner Marian Pahars and Imants Bleidelis came through their confrontation with our summer signing Michael 'Killer' Svensson in Latvia's creditable 0-0 draw with Sweden.
In Helsinki our two goalkeepers were at opposite ends of the pitch.
Paul Jones was between the sticks for Wales and the man trying to win his first-team place, new signing Antti Niemi was at the other end.
Wales did really well and under Mark Hughes they could well start to make a long overude impression on the international stage.
I discovered from his time at Southampton that Sparky was a winner and you can bet he's got the respect of all the Welsh players.
Wales have got some hugely talented players in Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Simon Davies. Now they have a manager who has lit a bit of Welsh fire in their bellies and they want to play for their country.
With a surname like Beattie, I've obviously got some Scottish blood in me somewhere.
I've never really looked too closely at my family tree, but there is a Scottish connection on my dad's side.
As an Englishman it doesn't give me any great pleasure to see Scotland struggling - honestly!
When I was a kid following football, it seemed that every top English club had a Scotsman at the heart of their team.
Liverpool had Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen, and back through the years Manchester United had the likes of Denis Law, Lou Macari, Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen.
The Nottingham Forest side that won the European Cup twice was built around players like Archie Gemmill, John Robertson and Kenny Burns.
If you go back further, you have to consider the likes of Billy Bremner at Leeds and Dave McKay at Spurs back in the 1960s and 70s.
I'm told there was even a little ginger Scottish player by the name of Strachan who wasn't a bad player when he was at Leeds and Manchester United.
At the moment, though, Scotland just aren't producing top players. You could probably count the Scottish players with top Premiership clubs on the fingers of one hand.
You have to feel a little sorry for Bertie Vogts. He's coming under a lot of pressure, but he can only work with the material he's got.
These things go in cycles, and I'm sure if they can get their youth production system going Scotland will rise again.
In the meantime, it's back to domestic action for me. Everton come to St Mary's on Wednesday evening for a game which we need to win.
The season is still young and it hasn't got to the stage where we are pressing any panic buttons, but it's always nice to get that first win under your belt.
We've played well in our last two games against Spurs and Chelsea without getting the breaks we perhaps deserved.
A little change of luck against the Toffees wouldn't go amiss.
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