Football: Injuries prompt Dixon call

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The Independent Online
IF NICOLAS ANELKA runs out for France at Wembley tomorrow he will see a lot of familiar figures. He was already faced with the prospect of having to get past Arsenal team-mates Tony Adams and Martin Keown to get in a shot at David Seaman, and now he may have to deal with Lee Dixon as well.

The Arsenal right-back was last night summoned to England's Berkshire headquarters as cover for Gary Neville, who has an ankle injury. With Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira also likely to play, the friendly international could resemble a high-powered Arsenal training session.

Though Dixon, who made the last of his 21 international appearances in Graham Taylor's final game, against San Marino in late 1993, is 35 next month his call-up is logical. He is well acquainted with Adams and Keown, and the only feasible right-back alternatives were Warren Barton, who spends much of his time in midfield these days, Phil Neville, who is short of matches, or the uncapped Steve Watson.

Keown is another possibility, but with Sol Campbell suffering from a stomach complaint and Gareth Southgate carrying a hip injury, he may be needed in the centre.

The Dixon call-up indicates a return to a flat back four. Injuries permitting, Howard Wilkinson, the caretaker coach, hopes to name his team today. He is also waiting on Darren Anderton (groin), Graeme Le Saux (foot), Dion Dublin (groin) and Jason Wilcox (foot) while Paul Merson has gone home suffering from a back injury.

Paul Ince, who the FA originally said would not be considered for selection, now appears to be back in the frame. However, since he is suspended by Uefa for next month's Euro 2000 qualifying tie against Poland, the benefits of playing him are limited.

The obvious advantage is that he may help England win. Wilkinson said: "I think one of the things Glenn [Hoddle] would have wanted out of this game is for the players to go into the Poland game knowing they can win at Wembley because they had just done it against the world champions."

In five matches at Wembley last year England beat Portugal and the Czech Republic but drew with Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria and lost to Chile.

"One of my biggest problems," says Wilkinson, "is that I have not got my finger on the players' pulse the way Glenn had. It is like coming into any club - knowing how individuals tick, how they get on with each other, is important in team-building."

Roger Lemerre, the French coach, yesterday called up Silvain Wiltord, the Bordeaux striker, to replace his club-mate Lilian Laslandes, who has a pulled muscle in his left leg.