Depression slows Anderton

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Darren Anderton's European Championship prospects look to be over as Tottenham shelved his comeback programme yesterday. His recovery from a groin operation in November is taking longer than expected.

Tottenham admit they cannot even schedule a date for the 23-year-old midfielder's next reserve appearance. "Darren is not pencilled in for anything at the moment," Gerry Francis, the Spurs manager, said. "He might make it before the end of the season, but time is running out."

Anderton returned to first-team action three weeks after a summer hernia operation, but broke down with groin trouble after starting just three matches and had a three-inch piece of scarred muscle removed from the inside of his right thigh. His surgeon, John King, also removed a one- inch cyst.

"It was quite serious," King said. "It would have been enough to stop him playing without the muscle problem. His physical recovery is right on schedule. The main problem is persuading Darren he is getting better. It is impossible to say at this stage whether he will play this season."

Tony Lenaghan, the Spurs physiotherapist, said Anderton's mental state was worrying the club. "He is very depressed," he admitted. "A few months ago Darren was hailed as the best player in England. Now nothing.

"He sees time slipping by and it is difficult for him to accept he cannot join in with training and matches. Depression is one of the major issues involved and we are addressing that."