England stars just 'one slip' away from disaster

Latest injury victim warns of dangers of treacherous Wembley playing surface

England's World Cup stars could miss the tournament through injury because of the Wembley pitch, according to one of Blackpool's victorious Football League play-off team who had to come off with a badly twisted ankle on Saturday.

The Blackpool midfielder Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who left Wembley on crutches because of an injury when his studs were caught in the turf, said that Fabio Capello's players could be at risk in their send-off for the World Cup against Mexico tonight.

Taylor-Fletcher, who said that he twice twisted his ankle because of the unpredictable playing surface, said: "The England players have got to be careful – there is a big World Cup coming up for them all. One slip and it could all be over for them."

His words came just after Rio Ferdinand became the first senior England player to speak out against the state of the Wembley pitch and ask the Football Association to explore the possibility of using the surface exclusively for football. The FA stages other events at Wembley in order to finance the debts it has on the £757m stadium. The current playing surface is the 11th laid in less than three years

Ferdinand said that Wembley "should [just] be a football stadium". The England captain said: "That's what it was built as. I believe that, if there are things going on there that make it a bad pitch to play on, that hinder the spectacle that is the football match – the FA Cup final, the play-offs – [then] maybe a decision needs to be made in that sense. But I think there are stadiums all around the world that are used for different things and they seem to get it right, so we need to look at it.

"I'm looking forward to [the game tonight] and, hopefully, from all the reports and the comments made, there's an improvement in it. We've just got to deal with it. Who knows, there could be a couple of bad pitches out in South Africa. You've got to deal with what's put in front of you."

In addition to the pre-tournament friendlies against Mexico and Japan next Sunday it emerged yesterday that England are planning one more warm-up game on 7 June, against the Platinum Stars. They are a South Africa ABSA Premiership side owned by the Royal Bafokeng nation, which also owns the training complex at which England will stay during the World Cup.

There is no likelihood of the FA being able to alter its business plan to make Wembley a football-only venue. On Sunday it will stage a summer ball for a commercial radio station that drew 7,000 people last time it was held. Between those events and the end of October there are two more music concerts, rugby league's Challenge Cup final and the American football NFL international series game, plus at least three England matches.

Asked about Wembley before Saturday's game, Capello said he did not want the surface watered because he feared that could contribute to players falling over, adding: "I think people are working very hard at Wembley. It's impossible to have a perfect pitch after the play-off and all the games that have been played. I was happy after the FA Cup final because I could see the players didn't slip during the game. This was the most important thing. If the pitch is not so good they can get injured."

The FA said that it was close to a solution. "Those involved with the pitch are considering a variety of approaches," a spokesman said. "Light and air circulation [in the stadium means] we have encountered difficulties, but we are determined to get it right."

Taylor-Fletcher, one of Blackpool's goalscorers, said that his injury was "the fault of ground". He said: "The studs got caught. We were told they were going to water it, but I kept changing studs and it didn't make a difference. I am another victim of the famousWembley pitch."

Capello's 30-man squad returned from their Austrian training camp at the weekend to prepare for tonight's game with the manager mulling over an international debut for Adam Johnson and starts for Ledley King and Jamie Carragher. The Italian has decided to rest his four-strong Chelsea contingent and goalkeeper David James, who played in the FA Cup final.

The Sunderland striker Darren Bent has a hamstring injury and is out of tonight's game. Robert Green and Joe Hart and will play one half each in goal.

That means a potential start for James Milner in midfield, alongside either Michael Carrick or Tom Huddlestone, with Theo Walcott on the right wing and either Aaron Lennon or Adam Johnson on the left wing. At their Austrian training camp on Saturday, selected players including Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Adam Johnson, Joe Cole, Carrick and Huddlestone practised penalties at the end of the session.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions