Football: Club and country wait on Ferguson verdict

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The Independent Online
Everton will learn today whether Duncan Ferguson, their Scottish international striker and cult hero of Goodison Park, must sit out the FA Cup final against Manchester United on 20 May.

Ferguson, who limped out of Monday's draw at Sheffield Wednesday with a recurrence of a hernia problem, sees a specialist today to determine whether he requires an operation. If Everton's fears are realised, their £4m recruit from Rangers is unlikely to play again this season - a blow for both club and country.

Whatever the diagnosis, Ferguson is already out of the remaining five games in Everton's fight for Premiership survival. He also misses Scotland's European Championship qualifying match in San Marino next Wednesday, the squad for which was announced yesterday.

Joe Royle, the Everton manager, said last night: "If the worst scenario does happen, Duncan will need surgery and almost certainly won't play again this season. That would be bitterly disappointing, but we've done well without him. In the eight games he's missed through suspension or injury since I've been here, we've lost only two."

Royle's injury worries are mounting, with Andy Hinchcliffe (Achilles) also due to see a specialist, and John Ebbrell (calf), Graham Stuart (knee) and Daniel Amokachi (ankle) currently indisposed. Paul Rideout and Stuart Barlow are likely to be his only fit forwards when Everton resume their programme at home to Wimbledon a week next Saturday.

Aware that he would have to plan without the 6ft 4in Ferguson - who missed last month's 0-0 draw in Russia because of injury - the Scotland manager, Craig Brown, has restored John Spencer, the 5ft 7in Chelsea striker, for the trip to San Marino. Another diminutive attacker, Pat Nevin, is also recalled.

"We've proved we can do quite well defensively away from home," Brown said. "Now we've got to see if we can score some goals, and that's why I've brought in Spencer and Nevin." He includes three other forwards - Duncan Shearer and John McGinlay, who hail from the same village near Fort William and were paired late in the last game, plus Darren Jackson.

San Marino's amateurs and semi-professionals have lost all four matches to date, scoring once and conceding 12 goals. But they restricted both Greece and Finland to 2-0 in their last two games, and a measure of how seriously Brown is treating the visit to the Serravalle Stadium can be gleaned from his refusal to let McGinlay and Nevin to play in Endsleigh League fixtures on Saturday. Their clubs, Bolton and Tranmere, were forced to re-arrange the games for Friday.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (European Championship Group Eight v San Marino, Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle, San Marino, 26 April): Leighton (Hibernian), Walker (Partick), Woods (Motherwell); Boyd (Celtic), Calderwood (Tottenham), McKimmie (Aberdeen), Hendry (Blackburn), McLaren (Rangers), Wright (Aberdeen), Collins (Celtic), Martin (Motherwell), McAllister (Leeds), McKinlay (Dundee Utd), McStay (Celtic), Jackson (Hibernian), McGinlay (Bolton), Nevin (Tranmere), Shearer (Aberdeen), Spencer (Chelsea).

SAN MARINO SQUAD: Benedettini (AC San Marino), Muccioli (SS Secchiano), Valentini (Rimini), Canti (SS Juvenes), Gobbi (AC Cattolica), Guerra (AC San Marino), Corbelli (SS Juvenes), Gennari (SS Juvenes), Bonini (AC San Marino), Matteoni (AC Cattolica), Francini (SS Santarcangiolese), Della Valle (SS Secchiano), Manzaroli (AC San Marino), Mazza (SS Grosseto), Peverani (SS Juvenes), Bacciocchi (SS Santarcangiolese), Gualtieri (SS Valbruna Gabicce), Mularoni (SS Juvenes).

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