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Pennant is ready to take step up

Pennant is ready to take step up

Sep 4 2007

by Ian Rush, Liverpool Echo

JERMAINE PENNANT can consider himself very unfortunate not to be in the England squad.

When he was first talking about his international prospects last season, I must admit I wasn’t too sure.

I was of the view it was far too early for him and he needed to do a lot more at Liverpool to convince people he can take the step up. Well, now I’m convinced.

Since the end of last season he’s moved into another gear, and this has continued with consistent performances in recent weeks.

Against Chelsea, Sunderland and Derby he was in superb form, so I can understand his disappointment that an England call hasn’t yet arrived.

All I can say is it can now only be a matter of when, not if, Steve McClaren picks him.

The strange thing is, having called up Emile Heskey, I would have thought Pennant would have been ideal to come into the side.

His great strength when he’s on his game is to get crosses in. It’s been shown he delivers more than anyone else in the Premiership, so with all due respect to David Bentley – who I think is a great prospect – I can’t believe he’s started the season any better than Pennant.

McClaren is probably facing a make-or-break few games.

England must win, but if I was a fan I’d be worried given the number of injuries they have.

A country such as England should be able to cope, but anything less than two wins will make life very tough for the manager.

After being one of the favourites to win the last World Cup, it would be quite a slump to be struggling to even qualify for the European Championships.

Whatever happens, McClaren must be given until the end of the group stage to do his job, otherwise the pressure put on him and the players will be counter-productive.

It’s reached a stage where every decision he takes is criticised, even those I believe are sensible.

There are some saying the call-up of Heskey smacks of desperation. I disagree with this.

With Peter Crouch suspended, it’s clear McClaren is looking for a player who can offer a similar option and act as a foil to Michael Owen.

When Michael was at his peak, Heskey was the partner who brought the best out of him, and while it may be expecting a lot for the pair to instantly hit it off again, who knows? It’s certainly worth a try in the absence of other options.

From Heskey’s point of view, he must have been shocked to get another call-up.

If he didn’t already think he’d had his last chance for England, he’ll realise this is certainly it now. That could act as the ideal motivation for him.

Since leaving Liverpool, he must have missed these kinds of high profile fixtures, and being back alongside Owen will surely inspire a good performance.

No-one has ever doubted Heskey’s ability, and if he produces his best form, McClaren could be praised for a masterstroke bringing him back.

I know Michael will look forward to playing with him again.

Mersey sound hits high note

WHEN I looked at the league table on Saturday night, it felt like a glorious flashback to the 1980s.

To see Liverpool and Everton sharing the top two positions was fantastic, and a tribute to the great start to the season for Rafa Benitez and David Moyes.

It looks like we’re going to see the most open title race in years.

The problems of Manchester United and Chelsea ensures no-one is looking like opening up a huge gap early on, which is good.

I’m starting to get really excited about Liverpool’s prospects, and I also fancy Everton to establish themselves in the top six, which would represent another great season for them


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