Eriksson lifted as Scholes and Gerrard return

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The Independent Online

The England head coach Sven Goran Eriksson had some good news yesterday when two of his injured players returned to training.

The midfielders Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard joined the squad for the session at their La Manga base in Spain and showed no ill effects as preparations for the Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia at Middlesbrough on 11 June continued.

Scholes developed a knee problem during the 2-1 friendly win over South Africa in Durban last Thursday, while Gerrard rarely trains fully immediately after a game.

Also continuing their rehabilitation were the 17-year-old Everton striker Wayne Rooney and the central defender John Terry, who have knee and thigh problems respectively. However, the Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was able to work only in the gym as he recovers from a knee injury.

Ferdinand had a scan on his knee before the South Africa game, which he started but had to come off at half-time. He now faces a race to be fit for the Slovakia game and the friendly with Serbia and Montenegro eight days earlier.

The English and South African Football Associations yesterday launched an investigation into the origin of claims that they had struck a secret £3m deal to ensure David Beckham's participation in last week's friendly. Both sides angrily denied the allegations.

Wales will have only 48 hours to prepare for their Euro 2004 qualifier against Serbia and Montenegro as the match has not been given full international status by Fifa. World football's ruling body has told Wales that the away game on 20 August will be considered a friendly date.

It means manager Mark Hughes will only be able to call his squad together 48 hours before kick-off. If the game had been on a full international match-day, clubs would have been forced to release players four days beforehand.

The Serbian trip was rescheduled after Uefa decided that civil unrest in Belgrade in April made playing the game too risky. The Premiership season begins on Saturday 16 August, so some games are likely to be played on the Sunday and Monday.

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