Eriksson forced to send for Vassell

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The Independent Football

It took less than an hour to be reminded that there was more than one problem facing Sven Goran Eriksson yesterday. The absence of Rio Ferdinand from the squad for Saturday's critical European Championship tie against Turkey was still being digested when the England manager was forced to add Darius Vassell to the party.

Although Eriksson tried to play down the Aston Villa striker's call-up, the reason was clear. When Michael Owen arrived at Sopwell House he was diagnosed as being in a worse condition than Eriksson had anticipated. "The medical staff say they have a plan," Eriksson said. "He is very positive and wants to play, which is good. But I have called in Vassell just in case. Michael may not train until Thursday, even Friday. To play, he ought to train Friday but there are no rules."

The probability is that Owen will not be fit but will play in any case, as he did against Brazil in the World Cup. Then he scored but lasted only 45 minutes. Eriksson explained the initial omission of Vassell, Owen's most obvious understudy, by noting that Sunday was the first time he had started a match in more than a month following a pelvic injury.

Another alternative would be to play Wayne Rooney, although he has been cautioned five times this Premiership season. "It does not concern me," Eriksson said. "Every time he has played for England, he has had the right temperament, not too much, not too little."

Apart from losing Ferdinand and worrying about Owen's leg injury and Rooney's temperament, Eriksson also has to wait for the fall-out from Sol Campbell's disciplinary hearing today. Campbell, who feels he is being victimised by the Football Association, has been charged with violent conduct following an incident in the Community Shield. He has only played one match since the death of his father three weeks ago.

"I have spoken to him and he is ready," Eriksson said. "He has had a difficult time professionally and privately, but he will be okay. I agreed with having the hearing this week as Sol wants it dealt with as soon as possible."

In Ferdinand's absence, Campbell is likely to be partnered by John Terry in central defence. The pair played, unconvincingly, in Macedonia. The only other centre-half in the party is Matthew Upson.

"We do not have much cover," Eriksson said, "but Jonathan Woodgate, Gareth Southgate, Martin Keown and Ledley King are all injured." Next in line were Zat Knight and Anthony Gardner. "They are good players but lack experience," Eriksson said. "For this match we would be better with Gary Neville or Danny Mills in the centre."

There was one final issue for Eriksson to deal with: Gérard Houllier's suggestion that he had told Roman Abramovich to buy Steven Gerrard. "I thought that had been dealt with," Eriksson said. "I spoke to Gérard at the Amsterdam tournament in August and I thought we had cleared that up."

With that Eriksson headed with relief for the training ground, to work on his team's makeshift central defence, second-string attack and fractured morale. "The build-up to this game," he admitted, "could hardly have been worse."

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