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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Smith earns star billing

The big plus for England in their draw against Portugal was the performance of Alan Smith.

His goal was a bonus and I was impressed with his work-rate, touch and all-round game.

I wasn't surprised by his display - even though it was his first international start - because he has all the ability in the world.

Rio Ferdinand once told me that when he first arrived at Leeds, it wasn't the ability of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka or Lee Bowyer that impressed him most, but that of Smith.


Lee Bowyer was also excellent
The 21-year-old does not have the raw pace to get away from a defender but he does have strength, skill, aerial prowess and an eye for goal.

Saying all that, Sven-Goran Eriksson won't be getting carried away with Smith's display and the Leeds striker has not earned an automatic place in the England side.

Emile Heskey looked good when he switched to the centre of the attack in the second half and he has a lot of good attributes.

The left-side of midfield is not his position - even though he'll play anywhere you ask him too - because he can't get past a man and hecan't cross.

He's a powerful striker who is a handful for any defender and should be playing through the middle.

Smith's Leeds team-mate, Lee Bowyer, was also excellent.

But his problem is that he isn't suited to the wing, which is where Eriksson played him against Portugal.

He's most effective in the middle, but he'll have to get past Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Nicky Butt to get a start in that position.

That's unlikely, because the players I have named are world-class and have five years left at the top level.


Eriksson did get to blood some new players and watch them on the international stage

Eriksson will have learned a lot from the first-half - when England were impressive - but little from the second, when a glut of substitutions disrupted the flow of the game and the home side were poor.

There's been a lot of discussion about the virtue of friendlies this week, but Eriksson did get to blood some new players and take a look at them on the international stage.

Saying that, I don't think the England side that starts the qualifying campaign for the European Championship will be much different from the one that finished the World Cup.

And even Smith and Bowyer will struggle to force their way into the starting line-up.

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