'Three Lions face World Cup flop'

'Three Lions face World Cup flop'
Paul Scholes was known, as a player, for his world-class skills and the occasional poorly-timed challenge but was happy to give his opinions on a series of subjects during his visit to Singapore.

The ginger hair is unmistakable, just like the trademark volleys that barrelled into the top corner of the goal at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday.

Even at 39, he was still able to spark a mini-frenzy at the Courts Megastore in Tampines on Saturday.

At first glance there is not much that separates Paul Scholes the world-class footballer from Paul Scholes the retiree.

But there is one key distinction between the man who was once one of the world's top midfielders and the one who now sports a pot belly he is not ashamed of.

Renowned for dodging the limelight as easily as he did opponents, the Manchester United icon was uncharacteristically candid, even comedic, during his recent visit to Singapore, whether with wide-eyed fans or an earnest media scrum.

Scholes, who returned to his home in Manchester last night, was here as part of electronics and furnishings retailer Courts' 40th-anniversary celebrations.

During a one-on-one interview with The Sunday Times, he openly addressed every topic put to him - from the best talents he played with to over-zealous owners, who he believes are ruining the Beautiful Game.

And it was England's Three Lions that bore the brunt of his long-range thunderbolts from Singapore.

Asked to name promising English midfielders in his vein, he scratched his head for a few seconds, then told this reporter: "Help me out, I can't think of any." Jordan Henderson?

"Not enough quality to perform at the international level."

Jack Wilshere?

"I thought he'd be a great player a few years ago, but there's been too many injuries since."

Then, like his typical 40m floating pass that drops onto the feet of a team-mate, he finds the mark.

Snapping his fingers, he said: "I got it - Adam Lallana. That kid should be starting for England."

The Southampton dynamo, 25, has three caps to date. But like any other fledgling Englishman, he has to break the Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard duopoly in Roy Hodgson's midfield.

Scholes feels that his country should plan for the future by writing off the World Cup in June.

"I don't think they can win in Brazil so it's time to try the younger players like Lallana and Ross Barkley to give them the experience," he noted.

"Hopefully, four years down the line, they can be a better team."

The Salford native has a first-hand understanding of England's travails.

He was often wasted on the left wing in 66 international appearances - a number that is far too small for a player who Barcelona maestro Xavi said would have been valued more if he was Spanish.

At his peak, the visionary playmaker made passing an art, a visual treat and a lesson in physics. He averaged 10 accurate long balls per game, with a pass success rate of more than 92 per cent.

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