Football: Hoddle's hope for strugglers

GLENN HODDLE had words of encouragement for three experienced internationals who are hoping to recuperate after injury in time to be included in England's World Cup squad.

As he headed to England's pre-finals training camp here, the England coach intimated that if Ian Wright, Paul Gascoigne and Darren Anderton proved their fitness they would be in the 22 for France 98.

"I want my quality players, and Gazza's quality," Hoddle said yesterday. "But he's going to have to be fit, and it's the same with Darren and Wrighty, they're going to have to be 100 per cent fit. The good thing is that Paul's not carrying an injury any longer, nor is Wrighty or Darren, their problems are over."

Wright and Anderton have overcome hamstring and groin injuries, while Gascoigne is coming back from ankle and knee injuries. The only two of Hoddle's party who do have slight injuries are Graeme Le Saux (calf) and Paul Ince (ankle).

Anderton started Saturday's match against Saudi Arabia at Wembley, his first England game since Euro 96, while Wright and Gascoigne, who both came on after an hour, had not played since the night in Rome when England secured a place in the finals. All enhanced their prospects.

Hoddle said: "I was pleased with Wrighty on Saturday because he looked sharp. He's been injured but it might turn out to be a slight blessing in disguise. He's 34 now, and if he'd had a long hard season at that age he might've been a bit jaded."

Hoddle also had positive news of Gascoigne. Last week, he said the midfielder was only 40 per cent match fit. "He's more than 60 per cent fit now," he said. "He came on last week and pushed it on a bit and here in La Manga, and Morocco as well, we've got an ideal climate for working. I don't know how much I can expect of him by 15 June, but he's fitter than he was when he arrived with us."