Football: Taylor untroubled by Gascoigne

NOT LONG ago Graham Taylor was saying of Paul Gascoigne, 'Pray God nothing happens to him.' Yesterday Gascoigne again missed training and was variously reported to have a calf-muscle injury, a problem with his famous knee or merely a bruise. Contusion or confusion, Taylor dismissed it all. 'I'm confident that with or without him we will beat Holland on Wednesday.'

Anything to do with injuries and Gascoigne inevitably becomes a national issue, but it seems that the cause of this latest commotion is nothing worse than some post- operative tissue that has become inflamed.

That in itself will not stop his appearing for England against the Dutch in the crucial World Cup qualifying game. Taylor said that Gascoigne has a slight calf-muscle injury and that a surgeon had said he had nothing to worry about as far as the knee was concerned, but the player himself has spoken only of a bruise on the knee.

If Gascoigne fails to appear for training tomorrow morning, Taylor added, there would be nothing for it but to get on with preparations without him, which could mean a place for Nigel Clough. In fact, David Platt, the captain and obviously one of Gascoigne's confidantes, said: 'Paul will be out there on Monday, no problems.'

It could be that they are all trying to keep the Dutch as much in the dark as Clough. It was obvious that when Gascoigne went down with a knock on the knee while playing for Lazio last Sunday he was not playing for breathing time. The more interesting aspect of the situation, though, is Taylor's apparent confidence that England no longer need to pray for Gascoigne's well-being. All he said yesterday was that whenever Gascoigne played expectancy was so high that 'maybe people are in danger of not appreciating what he does for the team'. A backhanded compliment after recently suggesting that England without Gascoigne were on a wing (John Barnes, not Chris Waddle) and a prayer.

Taylor's confidence seems based more on the short-term feeling that the Dutch have worse problems than on the indisputable fact that an England team without Gascoigne could qualify for the World Cup finals in the United States in 1994 but would not have the originality to go much beyond the initial stages. Whereas this week the Netherlands are likely to have half a dozen established internationals ruled unfit, England expect that all of their latest casualties will be ready for duty.

Although Ian Wright is with the squad, he is there only to give them the benefit of his enthusiasm. His toe injury has stopped him training but Des Walker, Trevor Steven, Carlton Palmer, Lee Sharpe, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Ince and Chris Woods are all prepared to join in tomorrow. 'We will not be calling in anyone else,' Taylor said yesterday, dismissing all speculation that he might bow to pressure and bring in Waddle.

Had Taylor not been in Italy last weekend he would have had the benefit of watching Sheffield Wednesday's collective indifference and Waddle's personal failure against Arsenal in the Coca-Cola Cup final. As a result he might not have fallen into yesterday's self-set trap of announcing that on Wednesday he expected to get more boos than Barnes had in the last home game.

The Dutch themselves may feel they need something more than a few jeers to inspire the minimum of a draw they need at Wembley. They have lost Marco van Basten, Wim Jonk, Wim Kieft and have Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp under treatment. Their manager, Dick Advocaat, wants to ease out the older players but not too quickly, which is why it would be no surprise if Koeman and Rijkaard are patched up for Wednesday.

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