England's injured look on bright side

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The Independent Online
A sitcom scriptwriter would have had them comparing scars: ''So how long's yours?'' Darren Anderton would have said to Alan Shearer. "About four inches," he might have replied. To which Tony Adams could have interjected: "It's not size that's important, it's what was taken out. Ha, ha, ha.''

Given the level of training ground humour, it would not have been so surprising if the conversation had gone along those lines at Bisham Abbey yesterday but, for England's returning invalids, the situation is too serious to be funny.

At one time Anderton, Adams and Shearer have each feared they could miss the European Championship finals. They may yet do so. Anderton and Adams trained in full at Bisham yesterday as England prepared for Saturday's friendly with Hungary, Shearer took part in the lighter work.

Shearer, who had a groin operation last month, expects to be in full training by tomorrow but, said Terry Venables, is unlikely to play on Saturday. Anderton and Adams both hope to do so - for them the need is more acute. While Shearer only missed the last few games of the season, Adams did not play after January and Anderton missed almost the entire campaign.

Adams has played only one game of any kind - Paul Merson's testimonial - in six weeks and he admitted: "I thought I was running out of time. I am still having treatment but that is just a precaution. I have had no problems whatsoever with my right knee - just the occasional twinge in my medial ligaments.

"I will see how it goes and then talk to Terry Venables. You listen to your body. I want to be in the Championship but I am not going to say I am fit if I am not. I am an honest man. I would rather a fit centre- half played for the country than me if I'm not 100 per cent. It would not be doing myself or my country justice.''

Then, in an unfortunate analogy given his trademark offside appeal, Adams added: "I'll hold my hands up if I don't think I'm fit.''

Anderton, another groin victim, said: "At one stage I did not think I would be here but it feels good now. I played three 90 minutes in a week at the end of the season and I've been surprised how fit I am.

"I'm not sure if I'm fit for tournament play, I need a couple more games.''

Anderton, like Adams, is likely to play the first of those matches on Saturday. He has been earmarked for the Paul Gascoigne role - the usual incumbent is playing for Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.

England may also be without their Liverpool contingent. Definitely out is Rob Jones, who needs treatment on a long-term back injury. He is likely to be out for three to six months, which rules him out of Euro 96.

The other Liverpool players have just been rested. Cynics might suggest they had their rest on Saturday, but Liverpool's soporific performance merely underlines how tired they are. Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, who have both played 56 games this season - the highest in the squad - have been given the week off. Jamie Redknapp and Mark Wright will join up today.

All four are likely to go to China - if England go there. Venables is having tomorrow's match between China and Lazio watched and the pitch assessed. If it is found wanting, England will play just one game in Hong Kong. Venables is expected to announce the tour squad tomorrow, after he has checked on Gary Pallister and Steve Howey. With Adams' fitness already in doubt, he is unlikely to take any further chances.

Adams hopes his own injury may even prove beneficial. "John Jensen was on the beach for two weeks before the last European Championship and Denmark won it," he said. "In 1988 I went to the Championship on the back of a 75-game season [England did not gain a point]. Which of those is the better preparation?''