Football: Ince withdrawal is withdrawn

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PAUL INCE was withdrawn yesterday from the England squad for Wednesday's friendly international in Spain, only to be reinstated within minutes when Lawrie McMenemy, the assistant manager, refused to accept Manchester United's diagnosis of a 'mystery virus', writes Joe Lovejoy.

Ince had just played a sterling part in United's victory over Leeds United when Alex Ferguson, the United manager, told reporters that he was one of three players suffering with a virus and would not be available for international duty this week. The others were Gary Pallister, who England wanted to replace the injured Tony Adams, and Brian McClair, who had been selected for Scotland's World Cup qualifier in Switzerland.

Ferguson said: 'Ince and Pallister have withdrawn, and McClair is struggling. Ince is feeling terrible. He has been having headaches and feeling generally rough. He has been sick. We have had about 12 players suffer from this virus since the summer.'

After a subsequent telephone call to McMenemy, the United manager returned with a startling about turn. England had insisted on examining Pallister and Ince, and suddenly both players were fit enough to join the squad after all.

Looking a little sheepish, Ferguson explained: 'Lawrie has said that Ince is going to play on Wednesday and, given that attraction, he is prepared to give it a try. It is a bit different from going just as a passenger, which he had thought he would be after being on stand- by originally. When I told Lawrie that I was pulling Ince and Pallister out, he said they would have to travel to Luton to be examined by the England doctor. That's it. They will be going to Spain.'

McMenemy's stand is the first success for a new regulation the Football Association introduced during the summer, after Graham Taylor had expressed reservations about some of the excuses offered for non-attendance in the past.

Sick notes from club doctors are no longer acceptable. Any player dropping out of the squad in circumstances which are not to Taylor's satisfaction must produce either a written diagnosis from his own GP or make himself available for examination by the England medical team.

Leeds's Rod Wallace, who was substituted after 16 minutes, and David Batty (Achilles injury) have also pulled out of the squad, although Batty will travel to Spain.

Stephen Froggatt, the Aston Villa winger born in Lincoln of Irish parents, has withdrawn from the England Under-21 squad while he considers whether to declare himself for England or the Republic.