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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 12:29 GMT
Who can fill Shearer's boots?

Phillips: Top-scorer in the Premiership this season
Alan Shearer's impending international retirement leaves England coach Kevin Keegan in need of not just a new No 9, but a new skipper.

While there are half a dozen top goal-scorers vying to prove their worth as his strike partner, few have the ability to lead the line to the devastating effect of Shearer.

Fowler has struggled with injury all season
Kevin Phillips, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Teddy Sheringham and youngsters Alan Smith and Francis Jeffers all have international class but are also more effective as the foil to a more traditional centre-forward.

Manchester United's Andy Cole has long been a pretender to Shearer's crown and has become increasingly bitter at his lack of caps.

But Keegan restricted Cole to a substitute's appearance for the Argentina friendly - despite impressive recent form - and did not take kindly to the player's sniping about Shearer.

Whenever Cole has appeared for England he has not produced the form which has seen him score as many league goals as Shearer this season (17).

Emile Heskey performed admirably as Shearer's partner in the Argentina game and at Leicester he leads the line to great effect.

Heskey took his chance against Argentina
However, with only one senior start to his name and only 22 years old, he will have to prove himself at this summer's European Championships to force himself up the list.

Chelsea paid 10m for Chris Sutton but he has been an unmitigated flop this season, scoring only a handful of goals.

England's Under 21 centre-forward is Carl Cort and he has scored 14 goals for Wimbeldon this season.

Young stars

Of all of them arguably only Heskey and Owen have the combination of temperament, talent and unshakeable self-belief that make Shearer so feared.

Cole: Outspoken attack on Shearer
It is those qualities too which also made the 29-year-old Geordie such a worthy national captain.

Since he was handed the skipper's armband, Shearer has devoted himself to putting his country first.

His decision to retire - or at least the timing of it - are as much to do with his concern for England's Euro 2000 campaign than with his own career.

Though many have criticised the striker, the thought of England without Shearer is like the Radio 2 without Terry Wogan.

Such has been the stature of his captaincy, there has never been any realistic discussion over a rival for the skipper's armband.

Captaincy candidates

Arsenal's Tony Adams and David Seaman have the experience and respect to assume the mantle, but given their age, only in the short-term.

The only England midfielders sure of a first-team place are Paul Scholes and David Beckham, one painfully shy and the other painfully petulant.

Campbell is well-placed to take the skipper's armband
Jamie Redknapp performs the role for his club but his injury and the emergence of rival midfielders mean that even his place on the pitch, should he recover from injury, is by no means guaranteed.

Chelsea's Dennis Wise appears to have secured his place at the heart of England's engine room, and though he too captains his club, his poor self-discipline and petulant outbursts surely make him a non-starter if only for political reasons.

Gareth Southgate and Sol Campbell both have the necessary temperament and regard from their team-mates.

The Aston Villa man missed the penalty which put England out of Euro 96 but his inspirational, no-nonsense performances for club and country since then make him one of the favourites for the job.

But perhaps it is Campbell, the assured force at the heart of Tottenham's defence, who is best placed to take Shearer's mantle and lead out England after Euro 2000.

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See also:

26 Feb 00 |  Football
Shearer to quit after Euro 2000
27 Feb 00 |  Football
Doubters 'forced Shearer out'
28 Feb 00 |  FA Carling Premiership
We won't let Heskey go - O'Neill