Football: Gascoigne lines up early return

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AS England neared their judgement day in Rotterdam, there was surprising and uplifting news about their missing midfielder, Paul Gascoigne, who is expected to return to action for Lazio on Sunday.

Gascoigne, who has managed only three league games for the Rome club this season, had been thought unlikely to play again until early next month, but his twisted knee has responded to treatment well enough for him to figure in plans for the home game against Piacenza.

The former Tottenham player would have missed tonight's World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands through suspension, but, should England secure the desired result, a fully fit Gascoigne would reinforce Graham Taylor's hand for the final game against San Marino at Wembley on 17 November when a goal-laden performance may still be needed to ensure a passage to the United States.

Lou Macari looks likely to be given permission to talk with Celtic about the managerial vacancy at Parkhead. 'We would allow him to speak if we had agreed suitable compensation with Celtic,' Peter Coates, the Stoke chairman, said last night. 'Lou is the pivotal person in all of this. He's torn between the clubs.' Stoke's change of heart followed Celtic's second approach.

'It's certainly not a question of money,' Macari said. 'No amount of money could keep me here at Stoke and no amount could get me to Celtic.'

Neil Ruddock and Pat Van Den Hauwe have been charged with misconduct and will appear before separate Football Association disciplinary hearings on 28 October. Ruddock, the Liverpool centre- back, is due to attend a 12 noon hearing at Villa Park, an hour after Van Den Hauwe, the Millwall full- back, has been dealt with at Lancaster Gate in London.

Ruddock is in trouble after an incident involving the Blackburn Rovers striker Mike Newell. He escaped punishment at the time, but now faces suspension after FA officials studied film of the game at Anfield and concluded that Ruddock 'struck or attempted to strike' an opponent. Van Den Hauwe was caught by TV cameras elbowing Charlton's Shaun Newton in the first minute of his Millwall debut.

Tommy Coyne, Tranmere's pounds 350,000 record signing from Celtic, yesterday signed for Heart of Midlothian for pounds 200,000.