Fabio Capello's England doctor is doing a final round of the Premier League clubs this week to make a personal check on the players whose injuries are a cause for concern ahead of next week's announcement of the 30-man provisional World Cup squad.
Dr Ian Beasley, recruited from Arsenal two years ago, is visiting at least five clubs as he seeks to speak to players and medical staff in order to give Capello an accurate idea of the state of his squad. No visit will be more important than the one to Carrington, Manchester United's training ground where Beasley will be getting updates on up to five players.
Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves are those whose condition Beasley will be checking. The indications from the Capello camp were that despite having come on as a late substitute against Sunderland on Sunday after 18 months out with chronic tendonitis, Hargreaves' return to action will be too late for him to be seriously considered as an option for the World Cup squad.
The announcement will be on Tuesday and the day before Capello will sit down with general manager Franco Baldini and the rest of his staff to make a final decision. Despite the fact that the England manager's first XI has a reasonably familiar feel to it, there are some key decisions to be made as to who makes the 30-man squad, never mind the final 23 which will be announced on 1 June.
Brown is a worry for Capello who likes the United player because he can play at right-back or centre-half. Ferdinand's persistent back problems are another worry. Neville also comes into consideration if Brown is not regarded as fit enough. Yet there are also concerns over the fitness of Neville who did not feature against Sunderland on Sunday.
Beasley is expected to drop in at Fulham's Motspur Park training ground to check on the Achilles problem of Bobby Zamora who is under serious consideration for his first call-up under Capello providing he can prove his fitness. Tom Huddlestone is also pushing hard for a place, potentially at the expense of Michael Carrick, the man whose position he inherited in the Spurs midfield four years ago.
Tottenham's England contingent also present problems. Aaron Lennon has only played two games since the start of the year and Ledley King's chronic knee problems mean he has never played for Capello. But there are also concerns about a persistent groin/hamstring problem that has affected Jermain Defoe, arguably the only Spurs player who, if fit, can be certain of a place on the plane to South Africa.
The Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson, who is Capello's first choice in that position, was also absent from his club's defeat by Chelsea on Sunday. The 25-year-old has suffered a recurrence of the knee injury that ruled him out for two months.
Despite all the problems facing Capello there are still some intriguing decisions to be made and some very big names potentially being left out. It would appear that Joe Cole has not done enough to make the squad, especially with Adam Johnson's performance for Manchester City against Aston Villa on Saturday making him the one wild card for a place in South Africa.
Shaun Wright-Phillips could also miss out on the 23-man squad if Lennon's fitness is assured. Capello also has to decide whether he will take four or five strikers with Carlton Cole and Zamora competing for the last spot in the final 23-man squad.
The training camp England will use in the town of Phokeng near Rustenburg in South Africa's North West province is expected to be opened officially today by the king of the Bafokeng nation who have financed and built the project, alongside representatives from the Football Association.Reuse content