Merson backs duo for England

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PORTSMOUTH talisman Paul Merson has tipped team-mates Nigel Quashie and Matthew Taylor to gain full England honours.

Merson, who has been an inspirational figure in Pompey's march to the Division One summit, is confident the duo have the ability to force their way into Sven Goran Eriksson's plans.

Quashie has represented England at Under-21 and B international level while young full back Taylor has earned rave reviews since arriving from Luton during the summer.

Pompey skipper Merson is in no doubt that his two talented colleagues can stake a claim for an England cap if they reach The Premiership.

"I can't think of a more influential left back in world football than Taylor apart from Roberto Carlos," enthused Merson.

"We have tightened up his defensive game and when he goes forward he's every bit as good as Ashley Cole.

"As for Nigel, I hope he does not look back on his career one day and wonder why he never played for England.

"He is a great player from box to box and it is up to him to maintain this sort of form and force his way back into the frame."

Merson also admitted he would welcome the arrival of Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli on the South Coast.

Portsmouth have been in talks with Derby regarding a deal for the veteran marksman but his wages are proving a stumbling block.

"Ravanelli would be a fantastic signing and would show that the club means business," added Merson.

"He is still one of the best strikers in the country and would get us 20 goals this season, enough to get us out of the First Division."

The Division One pace-setters' assistant manager Jim Smith has been talking with his old club about a deal for Ravanelli, who returns from Italy this week after recovering from an ankle injury.

Pompey chief Harry Redknapp is keen to bolster his firepower but requires The Rams to chip in for 'The White Feather's' wages.

Redknapp confirmed: "We must get more strength up front but nothing more has happened with Ravanelli.

"He is back this week and I know Jim Smith has been talking to him and Derby.

"Something could happen if we can persuade Derby to cover some of his wages."