Football: Hoddle fear for summer

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The England coach, Glenn Hoddle, admits he faces a tricky four weeks before the World Cup qualifying match against Georgia at Wembley on 30 April with some of his injured players still likely to be struggling for fitness and Premiership managers anxious about fixture congestion pulling players from his squad.

"A few of the injuries are going to be long-term," Hoddle said, thinking of Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne, Tony Adams and Gary Pallister. "With Manchester United and Liverpool also hopefully going all the way to European finals, it is going to make things complicated."

A worry is that managers may prevent players joining up with the national team, if not for Georgia then South Africa in May and the summer tournament in France. "Honesty is the best policy and the experience of international football makes players better," Hoddle said. "I saw John Spencer change completely when he was involved with Scotland, Dennis Wise to a certain degree too. The downside is that your player gets injured and you are left sitting upstairs helpless, as I was at Everton last week watching David Beckham and Gary Pallister."

It appears that Shearer could return from his groin operation to play for Newcastle at home to Sunderland on Saturday, giving Hoddle the added concern that he may come back too soon and risk breaking down, thus missing the Georgia match.

"That's just another frustrating part of the job," said Hoddle. "I spoke to Alan on Thursday and discussed his rehabilitation and in many ways I heard what I wanted to. I don't think he wants to rush back but that's for him and Kenny Dalglish to sort out."

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