Joachim tipped for England call-up (19 Jan)
           Paul Merson saluted Aston Villa goal hero Julian Joachim after he destroyed ten-man Everton -
           and claimed he would not look out of place in an England shirt on his current form. 

           England coach Glenn Hoddle witnessed Joachim's two goal blast which ensured that Villa moved
           back level on points with FA Carling Premiership leaders Chelsea and took his tally for the
           campaign into double figures. Joachim has reaped the benefit of his longest spell of first team
           football in three years at Villa, which until now had only seen him play a 'bit' part in proceedings.
           But the form of the former Leicester player has been so impressive that he has kept £7million club
           record signing Stan Collymore kicking his heels on the substitute's bench. 

           Merson, who himself weighed in with a goal after his return from a lay-off with a back injury, said:
           ``Julian is playing ever so well. He is on fire at the moment and is getting all the goals for us at

           ``People ask about him and England - and let's just say that I don't see too many centre-forwards
           playing as well as him at the moment. 

           ``If he keeps on working as hard as he is, and he is getting the benefits of that at present, then who
           knows? - and it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke if the England call does come.'' 

           Gregory said: ``Julian is warranting his place every week with his performances which tell me
           'you've got to pick me again next week.' 

           ``He scored two great goals against Everton but, even when he is not scoring, he is always a threat
           to the opposition. 

           ``When someone is as quick as he is then you know that you can stick the ball behind the
           opposition defenders and the wee fellow will get on the end of it. 

           ``He is still learning the game, has got a long way to go. He has possibly stood still and drifted
           around for a year and a half or more but he is doing particularly well at present.'' 

           Gregory was delighted with the patience shown by his side after Everton had defender Alex
           Cleland sent off for two bookable offences after only 11 minutes for challenges on Joachim and
           Dion Dublin. 

           He said: ``After the sending off I think the reaction of the crowd was that they wanted us to score
           three or four goals in the next 20 minutes. 

           ``But the players were made aware that we didn't have to win it in the next five minutes, that there
           were still 80 minutes to go and that it was all about making sure we ended the match with three

           Everton manager Walter Smith was unhappy with the sending-off of Cleland - but felt his own
           player had to shoulder part of the blame. 

           He said: ``I thought the sending-off was harsh. The referee had to book him for the first tackle
           because the Villa player (Joachim) would have been going through on goal. 

           ``But I don't think the second tackle warranted a booking. There was no need and the referee
           could have warned Cleland. I thought he made a poor decision. 

           ``But having said that maybe it was a little ill advised by Alex to even attempt a challenge in the
           situation he was in. He is an experienced enough player. 

           ``The red card influenced the rest of the game and we were really up against it. But I was
           disappointed by our defending for the first and third goals. 

           ``They were two crosses from which you would normally put a better challenge in.'' 

Martin Sivorn © 1999.E-Mail Me