Cole gives Keegan a reason to smile

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The Independent Online

The Manchester United striker Andy Cole gave Kevin Keegan a much-needed boost yesterday by training with the England squad ahead of Saturday's friendly in France.

The Manchester United striker Andy Cole gave Kevin Keegan a much-needed boost yesterday by training with the England squad ahead of Saturday's friendly in France.

Keegan said on Tuesday that Cole, who had been forced to miss the first session of the week due to an Achilles problem, would have to train before today's flight to Paris if he were to travel with the squad.

The striker, who is a strong contender to be recalled to the side for the game after missing out on the Euro 2000 finals through injury, duly came through the fitness session.

While the England coach will be hoping that Cole does not suffer any adverse reaction overnight, it is understood that he did not display any signs discomfort yesterday afternoon.

That would seem to indicate that there is now no need for Keegan to call up another forward in the wake of the teenager Alan Smith being summoned as a replacement to the injury-affected squad.

Already Emile Heskey, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville have had to pull out from the original 24-man party. And there is still a worry surrounding Kevin Phillips, who remained troubled by a sore shoulder.

The Sunderland striker is being monitored by the England medical team and a decision will be taken this morning as to whether he will fly to Paris with the rest of the squad.

There was a further boost for Keegan though, as Steve McManaman, who missed Tuesday's session because of flu, took part yesterday and is in contention for a place on the substitutes' bench.

The French Football Federation said yesterday that around 10,000 tickets remain unsold for the contest at the Stade de France.

The match is billed as a chance for Paris fans to salute the team that won the 2000 European Championship in July, but England are not proving a huge attraction.

Tickets priced from 490 to 590 francs (around £45 to £55) remained available and were being sold at ticket agencies around Paris.

The match will mark the final international appearance of the French central defender, Laurent Blanc, while the midfielder Didier Deschamps is also expected to announce his retirement from the international stage.

"I thought about it very carefully and I'm absolutely convinced that I have to stop now," Deschamps said. "I knew after the final against Italy that I would never experience something as strong and intense. I made my decision straight away."

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