England call-up Villa's Wright

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The Independent Online
Alan Wright was yesterday called up by England as the list of withdrawals for next Wednesday's home game against Croatia continued to grow.

The Aston Villa left-back stepped up after an ankle injury ruled out Phil Neville. The Manchester United defender joined Newcastle's Les Ferdinand (broken toe) and Robert Lee (Achilles), plus Blackburn's Alan Shearer (groin) on the casualty list.

The call for reinforcements by the England coach, Terry Venables, is likely to be followed today by Mick McCarthy, who lost four more members of his Republic of Ireland squad to face the Czech Republic in Prague. Out went Leeds' Gary Kelly and Liverpool's Jason McAteer (both knee), and Villa's Steve Staunton (ankle). Marseille's Tony Cascarino was given permission to pull out because of pressing club commitments in France.

Wales did not escape, either, with a hamstring sidelining the Bolton striker Nathan Blake for the trip to Switzerland.

The Aston Villa defender Gary Charles is expected to be out of action for a year after suffering a broken and dislocated left ankle. However, Charles - injured in Wednesday's 1-1 home draw with West Ham United - is expected to make a complete recovery.

Contingency plans have been laid for a single match play-off on a neutral ground should Newcastle and Manchester United finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored at the end of the season. It would take place after the FA Cup final on 11 May and before the European Championship finals, which begin on 8 June.

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