Achilles injury may keep Savage out of Wales play-off

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Robbie Savage could miss Wales's Euro 2004 play-off with Russia later this month. The Birmingham City midfielder has suffered a recurrence of his Achilles tendon problem and was pulled out of Monday night's home game against Charlton.

Savage had been pencilled in to return to action by the Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce, after declaring himself 100 per cent fit on Sunday following a full week's training. But the former Leicester City player sustained a reaction and there has to be a question mark over whether he will be fit to play for his country against Russia in the first leg in 11 days' time.

Savage attempted a comeback in the derby with Aston Villa a fortnight ago but felt the Achilles flare up in the final half-hour. That has been his only action in the last five weeks and he missed Wales's final group match against Serbia and Montenegro with the injury.

"It's a strange one because on Sunday we thought he was 100 per cent," Bruce said. "He thought he was 100 per cent. But he did a bit of training yesterday morning and felt a tightness around the Achilles tendon. We are obviously worried about him. The one thing we can't do is take a risk. He has suffered a reaction. It's a concern because it is now five weeks since it happened and he has broke down twice with it.

"It's strange because he's had scans and X-rays and tests and there isn't anything there that requires an operation," he added. "There has not even been a thought of going down that road."

Regarding Savage's chances with Wales, Bruce said: "He has got to be assessed by their doctors but the most important thing is that he gets himself fit. That's the vital thing."

Savage's Birmingham team-mate, the striker Christophe Dugarry, has revealed he is playing in pain after suffering a recurrence of the knee problem which required an operation in August. The French World Cup winner will discuss with the club's medical staff whether further surgery is an option after the next two games with Wolves and Arsenal.

Dugarry scored his first goal of the current campaign during Monday night's 2-1 defeat, but admitted to being frustrated at the knee problem handicapping his attempts to reproduce his stunning form of last season, when he was a major reason for City staying in the top flight.

"When you are a champion, you want to play, to score, to win," Dugarry said. "That is the reason I am here. When you can't do the maximum because you have pain, it is very bad.

"I know my qualities. I know what I can do for the team. I am sure I can play again like last season. I played a good game against Charlton, but I can play even better. I am a footballer and I want to play every game but maybe I am not so sure that I can do that because of the way the knee is. I can't run like I did last season."

Charlton's two-goal hero, Matt Holland, insisted that his side deserved their high position as their fourth away win of the campaign lifted them to seventh spot in the Premiership.

They have now collected 13 points from their last five matches after a difficult start to the season which led to the manager, Alan Curbishley, having a heart-to-heart chat with the players after the recent international break.

Holland said: "People seem surprised that we are where we are. We are not. We don't think it is surprising at all because we know what qualities we have.

"This side has not cost a lot to assemble, and just as importantly a lot of good players have come through the ranks."

Curbishley admitted: "When the players got back from the internationals I ripped into them a bit and I think we needed it."