Football: Adams is main worry

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Paul Gascoigne brightened Glenn Hoddle's World Cup mood yesterday by taking another major step back to fitness.

The Rangers midfielder had been restricted to only the lightest of exercises since his ankle was taken out of plaster last week, leaving him a doubt for Wednesday's clash with Italy. But yesterday Gascoigne was able to kick a ball for the first time since sustaining the injury in the European six-a-side tournament in Amsterdam two weeks ago.

"Paul did some ball work today and he looks to be on the mend," the FA's director of public affairs, David Davies, said. "The players who are fully fit had what Glenn described as a very hard but very positive session. And four of the other injured players were able to do some work today.

"Paul Ince and Alan Shearer did some light training, although we continue to have concerns about them. Robert Lee was able to do some running for the first time [after a groin strain], and David Seaman's knee eased enough for him to do some limited work, too.

"But we're still keeping Tony Adams' ankle under observation. He's still not been able to train at all up to this point and had rehabilitation work today."

The positive sign, with Ince and Shearer both expected to recover from their respective thigh and back problems, is that Hoddle has not been forced to send any of the injured players home.

Keith Branagan, the Bolton goalkeeper, will make his debut for the Republic of Ireland against Wales tomorrow after Alan Kelly suffered a groin injury yesterday. Brendan Murphy, Wimbledon's reserve team goalkeeper, has been drafted in as cover for Branagan, who has played one B international against England at Anfield two years ago.

Branagan has played two reserve games for Bolton in the past fortnight after recovering from hamstring and shoulder injuries. "It's a great chance for me," Branagan said.

McCarthy will not name his team for the friendly at the National Stadium in Cardiff until after today's training session. Apart from Branagan, Paul McGrath is sure to win his 83rd cap, adding to his record Irish tally.

Scotland travelled to Monaco yesterday without four players from the original squad of the manager, Craig Brown. The Rangers defender Alan McLaren and the strikers Darren Jackson, of Hibernian, and John Spencer, of Queen's Park Rangers, have been added to the absent list started by Chelsea's Craig Burley. That leaves Brown with a 23-man party to tackle Estonia in their rearranged World Cup qualifier.

Jackson was ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Spencer turned out for QPR in a 2-0 defeat at Ipswich on Saturday, but aggravated an ankle injury.

The Premier League will benefit from growing worldwide interest in Premiership football when it opens negotiations for a new overseas television rights deal. There has been speculation that it could be worth as much as pounds 25m a year to the Premier League. Under the existing agreement, pounds 5.5m of a total of pounds 8m-pounds 9m goes directly to the Premiership clubs and if a new deal fetched pounds 25m, the 20 clubs in the top flight for the 1998-99 season would receive pounds 1m a year each for foreign television rights.