Football: Taylor afflicted by familiar injury problems

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM TAYLOR, the England manager who is preparing for three World Cup qualifying games between now and the end of April, had a worrying but not unusual day yesterday. Alan Shearer now seems likely to miss all three, while Alan Smith and his captain, Stuart Pearce, are uncertain starters against San Marino on Wednesday.

Shearer, who suffered a knee injury on Boxing Day, was expected to return against Newcastle in tomorrow's FA Cup fifth-round tie. A rumour that he had suffered a setback in training last week was denied, but on Wednesday he was sent to see a specialist in Cambridge, with Kenny Dalglish, his manager, admitting that there might be some ligament damage.

Arsenal's Smith, who twisted his ankle against Wimbledon on Wednesday, may miss the Cup tie against Nottingham Forest. Pearce pulled out of a reserve match last night after a recurrence of a groin strain, but Forest are still hoping he can play tomorrow. Another England full-back, Arsenal's Lee Dixon, is ill with a viral complaint, which kept him out of action on Wednesday.

The Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, can expect a rude reception from Tottenham fans at Sunday's Cup tie after he criticised Gary Lineker, the former Spurs and England striker who is now a television commentator.

On Saturday's Match of the Day, Lineker suggested that Wimbledon's home game against Leeds would have been best watched on Ceefax. 'You don't mock the afflicted,' Kinnear said on Wednesday. 'You don't watch a blind man walking down the street and then kick him in the bollocks - but that is what he did to us. We are the greatest underdogs in Britain and I thought that was what people in this country liked - but it seems that people still hate us.'

Bolton, who travel to Derby in the Cup tomorrow, will be without their playmaker, Tony Kelly, who was sent off at Huddersfield last weekend. Unusually, his suspension begins with his club's next game, as he has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association after video evidence suggested that he had pushed the referee at Huddersfield, Alan Wilkie: he will be banned until the charge is heard.

Manchester United, resigned to the absence of Eric Cantona when they face Sheffield United in the Cup on Sunday, were surprised to learn that France are to release Jean-Pierre Papin from their training camp to play for Milan in Italy's Serie A on Sunday.

The French, who are heading for Tel Aviv for a World Cup qualifier against Israel on Wednesday, are insisting that Cantona stays with their squad, however. 'We will have to wait and see,' a puzzled Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said.

The supporters of Rangers will, after all, be able to watch their side take on Club Bruges in Belgium in the European Champions' League on 3 March. The Belgian champions yesterday won their appeal against a Uefa order that the match be played behind closed doors, following crowd disorder among Bruges fans at their Champions' League fixture at Marseille in November. The Belgians' original nominal fine was increased to about pounds 118,000 by Uefa's appeals committee, however.

'We were involved in this matter through no fault of our own and we are happy with the decision,' Campbell Ogilvie, Rangers' secretary, said last night.