Football: Leighton back as Goram pulls out

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The Independent Online
It is by now a tiresomely familiar scenario for Craig Brown, the Scotland manager. He announces his squad for a forthcoming international, tells the world how pleased he is to have all his key players fit - and then has to pick up the pieces as injuries threaten to scupper his plans.

The latest casualty is Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper, who has missed his club's last six matches because of a hip injury. Along with his former Ibrox colleague Duncan Ferguson, now with Everton, Goram has been declared unfit for Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Goram's absence means that the battle-scarred Jim Leighton, the 38-year- old Hibernian custodian, is set to win his 75th cap at Ibrox this weekend. Motherwell's Scott Howie will be added to the squad to act as cover for Leighton - who was persuaded by his family not to announce his international retirement after being overlooked for Euro 96 - and Nicky Walker of Aberdeen.

The Scots will find out this morning if their captain, Gary McAllister, can play against the Swedes. McAllister was due to serve a one-match World Cup ban when his side met Estonia last month, but the home side's no-show in Tallinn has thrown matters into confusion.

Fifa, world football's governing body, will decide in Zurich this morning where (if anywhere) the blame lies for the floodlights farce in Tallinn, when Estonia failed to turn up at the daylight kick-off time ordered by Fifa, and will either award Scotland a 3-0 win or order a re-match.

Brown, who has been angered by his team's main Group Four rivals, Austria and Sweden, protesting at the prospect of a walkover for the Scots, is afraid that Fifa may be under pressure to choose the re-match option - in which case McAllister must serve his suspension on Sunday.

The former Celtic full-back Anton Rogan has been recalled to the Northern Ireland squad for their World Cup game on Saturday against Germany in Nuremberg, after the withdrawal of West Ham's Keith Rowland with a virus.

The 30-year-old Rogan, now with Millwall, has not played for his country under Bryan Hamilton, and was last capped against Lithuania in April 1992. However, Hamilton is likely to prefer Stoke's Nigel Worthington for the left-back role.

The Celtic striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk, has a calf injury and was restricted to light training yesterday as the Netherlands prepared for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Wales in Eindhoven. Frank de Boer of Ajax, who has a groin strain, is also a worry for the Dutch, who won 3-1 in Cardiff last month.

The Bolton captain, Gudni Bergsson, has a thigh strain and looks likely to miss Iceland's World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Sunday.

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