Osman calls for England caution

FORMER international star Russell Osman today struck a cautionary note ahead of in-form England's next World Cup qualifier.The ex-Ipswich and England defender looked ahead to tonight's clash at St James' Park and warned: "The Albanians will probably come and shut up shop.

FORMER international star Russell Osman today struck a cautionary note ahead of in-form England's next World Cup qualifier.

The ex-Ipswich and England defender looked ahead to tomorrow night's clash at St James' Park and warned: "The Albanians will probably come and shut up shop.

"It should be a great night, with a full house of Geordie supporters shouting their heads off, but everyone has to be patient. It doesn't follow that England will be able to score five goals again.

"Having said that, however, they have the quality to make the most of the chances that will inevitably come along. But I am still concerned by England's defending.

"Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell still don't look like a unit to me. They improved as the game in Munich wore on but it might have been too late, when you think about that terrific chance the Germans squandered.

"They need to get tighter. They can't back off centre-forwards, allow them to get a lot of the ball and turn."

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Osman, who won 11 senior caps in a career that took in spells with Leicester and Southampton, was also manager of Bristol City and Cardiff City.

He now works in the media, mainly as ITV's resident Nationwide League expert, and he lapped up every minute of the weekend destruction of Germany at his West Country home.

The 42-year-old former Portman Road favourite added: "What that game highlighted was what certain individuals are capable of. The quality of Michael Owen's finishing was exceptional and look at the role that Steven Gerrard played.

"A few weeks ago I was at Wolves when they played a pre-season game against Liverpool and I had a long chat with Gary McAllister, who was at Leicester with me.

"He was raving about Gerrard. He said he was a phenomenal player who could do the lot – tackle, create and score – and was also a good athlete. When someone of Gary's standing says things like that you take notice.

"We saw on Saturday how good Gerrard can be and David Beckham was also excellent. It seems people either love him or hate him, but there's no argument about the quality of

football that he can produce.

"Beckham was under pressure with his injury and you were thinking 'He's going to blow up any minute now'. But he kept going right to the end.

"That display against Germany is about as good as it gets but it will be different against an Albanian team who will pack their defence. It will be up to England to be patient and then take their chances when they come along."

England captain David Beckham echoed Osman's call for patience today, ahead of tomorrow night's World Cup qualifier against Albania as he vowed to ensure his team lift themselves for a second time in four days.

Beckham knows expectations have rocketed after England's incredible 5-1 win against Germany in Munich last Saturday.

He believes confidence and self-belief are flowing through the squad but warned England must first qualify for the 2002 World Cup before they start getting carried away with what mark they are going to make on the tournament.

Automatic qualification will almost certainly be impossible unless they defeat Albania at St James' Park.

The England captain said: "Patience is the biggest word. I'm sure the crowd will be wanting us to score four or five goals in the first 10 minutes.

"It's going to be one of those games where the expectations are going to be huge – and rightly so after the game on Saturday.

"But everyone has to calm down and not get carried away and just be patient with us. It took us 70 minutes to score the first goal in Albania before we won 3-1, so we have to be patient."

While also expressing caution, Beckham believes Saturday's victory in Munich can prove to be a pivotal moment in the ongoing development of a young side inspired by respect for Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The midfielder, who insists he will be fit for tomorrow's game, said: "When you beat a team like Germany the confidence you gain is immense.

"Not to be worried about any team now is something we have to get into our heads. We're not scared of anyone."

He nonetheless warned against over-confidence before facing Albania, as he insisted: "One goal is enough, and we are too professional to be complacent.