FOOTBALL: Armstrong waits on FA

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The Football Association will rule this morning whether the Crystal Palace striker Chris Armstrong can be cleared to resume his career, hours before the vital relegation meeting with Sheffield Wednesday.

The Palace chairman, Ron Noades, has requested that Armstrong be allowed back after testing positive for cannabis in January. It is understood he took another drugs test yesterday, which proved negative.

An FA spokesman said: "Crystal Palace's request is being considered and a decision will be reached in the morning."

Alan Smith, the Palace manager, believes Armstrong has been punished enough and is desperate for the striker to play against Wednesday. "I am waiting by the phone, hoping that he will get clearance," he said.

Armstrong has already missed four games, including the FA Cup semi-final draw against Wolves at the weekend, as well as the Coca-Cola Cup semi- final defeat by Liverpool last week.

The FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Everton will be played at Elland Road at 1.30pm on 9 April, with Manchester United's game against Crystal Palace or Wolves at Villa Park at 4pm on the same day. The Scottish Cup semi-finals will take place on Friday 7 April (Hibernian v Celtic at Ibrox, at 7.30pm), and the following day at Hampden Park (Airdrie v Hearts at 2pm).

Jack Charlton has named a 24-man squad for the Republic of Ireland's qualifier against Northern Ireland in Dublin on the same day. The Liverpool defender, Phil Babb, and the Bolton midfielder, Jason McAteer, play in the Coca-Cola Cup final at Wembley just four days after, but both are named.

A move from left-back to midfield has paid dividends for Swindon's Kevin Horlock, who is called into the Northern Ireland squad.

The Southampton midfielder, David Hughes, who has made two Premiership starts, and the Wolves centre-half, Brian Law, who retired from football through injury three years ago, were named yesterday in Mike Smith's 18- man squad for the European Championship qualifier against the World Cup semi-finalists, Bulgaria, on 29 March.