Football: Pallister likely to be left out of Euro 96

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Terry Venables will today tell some of his England players that, for the time being at least, they are history and Gary Pallister, fresh from helping Manchester United to their historic double Double, could be the biggest casualty.

He and Newcastle's Steve Howey have been waiting anxiously to hear if they have squeezed through the door of the plane to China and revived their hopes of reaching Euro 96.

If they do, they will pass a couple of team-mates on the way out as the England coach makes another cull of his resources, down to around 25 in preparation for naming his final 22 for the European Championship finals on his Far East return.

Venables has no doubts about the fitness of Pallister, who recovered from a persistent sciatic problem to become a tower of strength at the heart of United's defence during the run-in to their twin glories. And after missing 21 games from December he, like Tony Adams and Darren Anderton, would return to the squad refreshed.

But his back still plagues him sufficiently to restrict his training which, in a high-powered tournament, is probably a risk too many for England.

"He can't play more than one game per week. He must rest four or five days then go into the gym and get himself right," said Venables, who has discussed the position with Alex Ferguson as he wrestles with his verdict.

"With Howey, Adams and Pallister it would be taking a bit of a gamble to risk all three for a schedule that could produce six games in little over three weeks."

Adams, recovered from a cartilage operation, has given himself four days' training with England to reach an honest self-appraisal of his position, and Pallister will at least be on stand-by.

Howey is even more borderline, still not declared fit after the hamstring injury he sustained against Liverpool at the start of April. He is recuperating in the sun in Cyprus with the rest of his Newcastle team-mates.

He also plans to give himself a make-or-break fitness test by the end of the week but there is no doubt the versatile, younger centre-half would fit better into the new three-man system England unveiled against Croatia last month than either of his two rivals.

With Rob Jones' having withdrawn because of an injured back and Venables happy to draw cover for right-back Gary Neville from players like Sol Campbell, Gareth Southgate and Neville's brother Phil, midfield is likely to be the coach's next target.

With Paul Gascoigne returning from Scottish Cup final duty with Rangers for the trip he has 28 players chasing tickets to Peking, and the likes of Jason Wilcox, Jamie Redknapp and the out-of-form Nick Barmby will be feeling a little less secure than many of their colleagues. But the uncapped Blackburn winger Wilcox could be in for a pleasant surprise, with Steve McManaman's unavailability for Saturday's final Wembley warm-up against Hungary opening up a berth on the left.

The Scotland manager, Craig Brown, last night insisted that the Chelsea striker John Spencer will be fit for next week's trip to America. Spencer returned north from London yesterday to be assessed by Scotland's medical staff as the squad trained at Largs. The Stamford Bridge striker has a foot problem and is restricted to cycling and swimming at the moment.

"I am sure John will be on the training pitch next week when we reach America," said Brown. Scotland face the United States in New Britain on 26 May, and Colombia in Miami three days later.