Football: Hoddle to see the sick as well as the sick notes

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The Independent Online
Glenn Hoddle unveiled his squad for the Easter Saturday friendly with Mexico yesterday and then told his Premiership counterparts that he would not accept sick notes instead of players.

Seven of those chosen are already said to be doubtful and, with the business end of the season approaching, managers will be looking to make withdrawals. Hoddle appears to have decided it is time to make a stand.

"If a player is injured and can't play, we will have him report and our medical staff will take a look at him," Hoddle said. "If they're playing for their club and someone says they are not fit for us, it is only fair we should have a look.

"I wouldn't like to think managers are pulling their players out for any reason other than injury. You gain so much from playing for your country."

Teddy Sheringham, Tony Adams, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Darren Anderton, Matt Le Tissier and Gareth Southgate are all said to be carrying injuries. Already ruled out are Paul Merson, Andy Hinchcliffe, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and Paul Gascoigne.

This skirmish could be the prelude to a major row. England's crucial World Cup tie in Poland is three days after the European Cup final on 28 May. That could feature Manchester United but, in theory, Hoddle can demand their England players are released to him on 26 May. "It is not something which will be talked about until it becomes reality," Hoddle said. "If the problem is there, it would be a nice problem to have and I would converse with Alex Ferguson."

There were four United players in yesterday's 25-man squad including, for the first time, Nicky Butt. Gary Neville, Beckham and the recalled Gary Pallister make up the quartet.

Also recalled, after a four-year gap, are Martin Keown and Nigel Martyn. Missing, dropped for the first time since he came into the England side a decade ago, is Stuart Pearce. Another former captain, David Platt, is also absent despite recovering fitness.

Pearce was blamed by many for Gianfranco Zola's goal at Wembley last month but his dropping seems harsh. Nick Barmby and David James are in far worse form and they have been retained.

Keown's return, at the age of 30, is an indication that Hoddle could have done with a man-marker against Italy. Though his game has developed under both Bruce Rioch and Arsene Wenger, Keown's chief claim to distinction remains his impression of a human limpet. He was capped 11 times by Graham Taylor but ignored by Terry Venables.

Martyn's recall is also an international too late. As the Premiership's in-form goalkeeper, he should have been in last month's squad. He is unlikely to start but, if he does, he will find one notable difference between keeping goal for England and doing so for Leeds - England try to attack as well as defend.

Martyn is one of four goalkeepers, which seems extravagant for a home friendly, especially as the accepted No 1, David Seaman, is not included despite being fit enough for Arsenal to expect him to face Liverpool on Monday.

Butt, 22, steps up from captaining the Under-21 side. Since breaking into the Manchester United team in the wake of Paul Ince's departure, he has proved a successful foil to Roy Keane as early indiscipline has given way to maturity without the loss of his combativeness.

Hoddle now has a busy few days on the telephone. As well as negotiating with managers, he intends to speak to Gascoigne, who appears to be going through one of his chequered periods.

"I will be speaking to him about his leg injury," said Hoddle, "and other matters may come up. I don't know the facts of what happened with him and I am not going to comment until I do. Walter Smith at Rangers will know the facts and I will speak to him when things have calmed down." Sadly, one fears that Gascoigne's life will never calm down, at least not while it is worth an England coach retaining a professional interest in it.

ENGLAND SQUAD (Friendly v Mexico, Wembley, 29 March): Walker (Tottenham), Martyn (Leeds), James (Liverpool), Flowers (Blackburn), Southgate (Villa), Adams (Arsenal), G Neville (Manchester Utd), Le Saux (Blackburn), Campbell (Tottenham), Pallister (Manchester Utd), Matteo (Liverpool), Keown (Arsenal), Ince (Internazionale), Beckham (Manchester Utd), McManaman (Liverpool), Batty (Newcastle), Redknapp (Liverpool), Lee (Newcastle), Butt (Manchester Utd), Anderton (Tottenham), Barmby (Everton), Fowler (Liverpool), Le Tissier (Southampton), I Wright (Arsenal), Sheringham (Tottenham).

Sky TV have secured the rights to screen England's final World Cup qualifying match against Italy in Rome on 11 October.

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