Football: Ireland defender Harte pulls out

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The Independent Online
By Tommy Staniforth

IAN HARTE, the Leeds United defender, is out of the Republic of Ireland's squad to meet Yugoslavia in the rearranged Group Eight European Championship qualifying tie in Belgrade on Wednesday.

Harte injured a bone in his foot in Leeds' 3-1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday. Middlesbrough's Curtis Fleming has been called up to join the squad which flies out to Belgrade today.

Last week Mick McCarthy, Ireland's manager, was unhappy about world football's governing body, Fifa, waiving the five-day release rule, enabling his players to stay with their clubs over the weekend rather than join him for training. Sunday morning's telephone calls brought the news he dreaded. Apart from Harte, he now also has injury concerns about David Connolly of Wolves, Charlton's Mark Kinsella and Liverpool's Steve Staunton, none of whom took part in yesterday's training session in Dublin. Connolly and Kinsella are suffering from dead legs while Staunton has a slight ankle problem.

"We always knew that if they played, there was every chance of some of them being injured," McCarthy said. "But there is nothing we can do about it and we just have to get on with the job in hand. It's finished and now we must concentrate on Wednesday."

Barry Ferguson, the Rangers midfielder, was yesterday drafted into the Scotland Under-21 squad to face their Belgian counterparts in midweek at the insistence of his club manager, Dick Advocaat.

Ferguson, who has already collected a full cap for Scotland in Lithuania as a substitute, was not part of Alex Smith's initial squad because of concerns over his match fitness for Wednesday night. But Ferguson returned for his club side in yesterday's 2-1 home win over Aberdeen, prompting Advocaat to contact Smith to make it clear the player would be released for the European Championship qualifier at Love Street.

Mikkel Beck is ready to leave Middlesbrough following the pounds 3m arrival of Brian Deane from Benfica. The 25-year-old Danish international striker is unhappy at being relegated to the substitutes' bench after forming an effective partnership with the Colombian international Hamilton Ricard earlier in the season.

Far from being unhappy at losing three of players to Glenn Hoddle's full England squad England's Under-21 coach, Peter Taylor, is delighted. The loss of the Ipswich goalkeeper, Richard Wright, the Aston Villa midfielder, Lee Hendrie, and the Leicester forward, Emile Heskey, means a weakened England side will face the Czech Republic at Portman Road on Tuesday.

"We have lost those three lads for exactly the right reasons," he said. "Winning matches is obviously important but our whole purpose in being is to prepare players to be senior internationals."

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