Football: Doubts raised over Ferdinand: Concern over forward grows but Pearce news is more encouraging

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THE England trio of Les Ferdinand, Stuart Pearce and Paul Parker all missed their clubs' Coca-Cola Cup ties last night, causing further concern for Graham Taylor as he prepares for next week's World Cup qualifier in Rotterdam.

Ferdinand, the Queen's Park Rangers striker who gave an accomplished performance against Poland last month, is the greatest worry. 'I have already told Graham Taylor that I feel the chances of him playing are virtually zero,' Gerry Francis, the Rangers manager, said of his hamstrung forward. 'I will speak to Graham again tomorrow. Les will have more treatment. At the moment Les can't even get over half pace. It is a hamstring injury but it is very low down near the knee, the muscle you use for sprinting - and pace is one of Les's greatest assets.'

Francis's Nottingham Forest counterpart, Frank Clark, had a more encouraging prognosis about the England captain, Pearce. Although the tenacious full-back is suffering from a troublesome thigh strain, Clark said: 'There's no reason why he should not be fully fit in the next two or three days.'

Parker pulled out of Manchester United's game suffering from a heavy cold but is expected to have recovered in time to join up with the England party soon. Arsenal's Ian Wright said he was 'confident' of reporting as planned despite knee trouble. His manager, George Graham, was less hopeful, saying: 'I believe Ian remains a big doubt.'

Manchester City and Oldham last night agreed a pounds 450,000 deal taking the 29-year-old winger, Rick Holden, back to Boundary Park. Blackburn have completed the pounds 300,000 signing of Ian Pearce, Chelsea's 19-year-old defender.

Ivor Doble, the former Exeter City chairman, will be back in control of St James Park by the weekend, having bought the 51 per cent controlling stake of the club president, Clifford Hill.

Paul Gascoigne, the Lazio midfielder suspended for the England tie, will be out of action for three weeks because of a twisted knee, the Lazio doctor said last night.