Wise in Italy for treatment as final hopes fade

There was a significant absentee when Millwall welcomed the press to the Den yesterday: Dennis Wise, their player-manager. Wise has often had a fractious relationship with the national media but his excuse was all-too real. He was in Italy receiving emergency treatment on a leg injury, believed to be a calf problem. His chances of making Saturday's FA Cup final against Manchester United are described as "hopeful" at best.

There was a significant absentee when Millwall welcomed the press to the Den yesterday: Dennis Wise, their player-manager. Wise has often had a fractious relationship with the national media but his excuse was all-too real. He was in Italy receiving emergency treatment on a leg injury, believed to be a calf problem. His chances of making Saturday's FA Cup final against Manchester United are described as "hopeful" at best.

Ray Wilkins, Wise's assistant manager, explained: "Dennis has had a slight relapse on a problem he's had over the last couple of weeks. He's getting alternative treatment and we are only hopeful he will be OK."

The "alternative treatment" is massage delivered by an Italian specialist sports masseur Wise previously consulted prior to Chelsea's European Cup-Winners' Cup final in 1998. On that occasion Wise made the game, which Chelsea won. Wilkins added: "Dennis had a muscular problem then and went to this guy Luca Vialli [then Chelsea manager] knew. Within four days he was sound as a pound. The years are ebbing away as far as his footballing career is concerned so he's desperate to play in what will probably be his last FA Cup final."

It would be the 37-year-old's fifth FA Cup final. Should Millwall win Wise would become the first player to lift the trophy with three different clubs after past triumphs with Wimbledon and Chelsea.

The First Division side's chances of doing so, already slim, will be further hampered by Wise's injury. With Danny Dichio suspended and Kevin Muscat and Andy Roberts injured he is the only remaining player with big-match experience.

Wise, who has missed Millwall's last two matches, will rejoin his team in Cardiff tomorrow. "It will be his decision whether he plays," Wilkins said. "He won't if it's going to hinder the efforts of the side but he's a massive influence. To lose him would be like United losing Roy Keane."

Keane has himself been doubtful but he successfully came through a training session at Carrington yesterday. The United captain has been struggling to shake off a hamstring injury and missed United's last three games. Providing Keane suffers no reaction he will now play in his sixth FA Cup final this weekend, a figure exceeded only by Arthur Kinnaird, who played nine finals for Wanderers and Old Etonians. Phil Neville is most likely to make way, though the places of Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea could also be in jeopardy.

Millwall would love such a dilemma. With at least 11 players missing through injury or suspension Curtis Weston, a 17-year-old midfielder, has been added to the travelling party. He has made one previous appearance, as a substitute in Saturday's final League game. Wilkins added: "We have some very talented young men at the club and they wouldn't be at the club if we weren't prepared to put them in.

"It would be extremely difficult if everyone was available. But we have a collective spirit and a chance of bringing the trophy back."

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