England are still harbouring doubts about Scott Parker's fitness for the European Championship and face entering the tournament with only one fully fit first-choice central midfielder, after Frank Lampard's withdrawal from the squad last night.
Parker will start for Roy Hodgson against Belgium in England's friendly at Wembley tomorrow and, barring any problems, will be in the XI against France when the side begin their Euro campaign in 10 days' time. But there is a feeling among coaching staff who watched the 31-year-old play against Norway on Saturday that he is some way short of his best.
Parker has had a race against time to be fit for this tournament, having decided to take a holiday in Dubai straight after the Premier League season finished rather than stay at Spurs for work on an Achilles injury. He missed the last four games of the domestic season and played only 56 minutes in Oslo.
England's coaching staff are unanimous in their view that he is not yet right, despite having responded well to an injection and trained fully last week.
Parker's struggle is a further blow to Hodgson, left, who yesterday heard confirmation of Lampard's withdrawal with a thigh injury picked up in training on Wednesday. England, who have called up Liverpool's Jordan Henderson from the standby list, knew that the two-to three-week recovery time for a thigh strain meant that the injury had come too late for Lampard to have a role in Euro 2012. The Football Association will today approach Uefa for permission to draft Henderson into the squad.
With Gareth Barry's stomach injury also ruling him out, captain Steven Gerrard is the fittest midfielder at Hodgson's disposal. There has been a clamour for Hodgson to turn to Manchester United's Michael Carrick, and it is understood that the player is now willing to renew his international career and make himself available, following the exit of the previous manager Fabio Capello. But the 30-year-old is also aware Hodgson has standby players ready, so covets a return to the ranks only after Euro 2012.
Hodgson may instead have to turn to the players who are cover for central midfield: Phil Jones, who has started one game in the centre for England and just seven for Manchester United, James Milner and Henderson.
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