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Football: Reds ace Kirkland `thebest in world'.

Byline: ANDY HUNTER

CHRIS KIRKLAND was last night hailed ``the best young goalkeeper in the world'' and the man most likely to fill the boots of David Seaman by England under- 21 coach David Platt.

The Liverpool keeper has had few chances to show his true potential since the move from Coventry and has found himself behind Jerzy Dudek in Gerard Houllier's plans this season.

Despite being out of thespotlight, the 21-year-old was still called up for England's recent friendly against Croatia.

Now,after a year'sabsence,he will take over the number one jersey for the under-21s' vitalEuropean Championship qualifying matches in Macedonia on Friday and against Portugal at Goodison Park next Tuesday. Liverpool's JohnWelsh and Tranmere keeper Russell Howarth are also included as late call- ups. And coachPlatt believes Kirkland's presence will be crucial to his side's qualificationhopes.

``It's a great boost for us to have him back,''extolled Platt.

``To be honest,I've seen a lot of youth football across the world since I took this job and I think in Chris what we have is the best young goalkeeper in the world, so it isn't bad to have his name down there.

``With players they hit a ceiling at times,and although he's only young,he's still pushing the ceiling up.It's not closed him in.''

Although David James and Paul Robinson are pushing for the coveted number one role with the seniors as Seaman's successor,Platt feels Kirkland has the natural ability to become England's eventual first choice.

``It's unfair to compare because I didn't know David as a youngster. I only knew him at Arsenal at a time when he was experienced,'' added Platt.

CAPTION(S):

BACKED: Chris Kirkland
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2003
Words:284
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