Batty's career in doubt over Achilles injury

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The Independent Online

Both England and Leeds United will be deprived of David Batty's experience this season after his club manager, David O'Leary, revealed yesterday that the 31-year-old midfielder's Achilles injury would keep him out until at least next summer.

Both England and Leeds United will be deprived of David Batty's experience this season after his club manager, David O'Leary, revealed yesterday that the 31-year-old midfielder's Achilles injury would keep him out until at least next summer.

Batty's problems - which must be classed as potentially career-threatening given that he will have been out of action for nearly two years by the time the 2000-01 campaign kicks off - date back to a blow to the chest which he sustained against Coventry in the first match of his second spell with Leeds in December 1998.

In an attempt to heal severe bruising to the muscle protecting his heart he was prescribed steroids, but the treatment had the knock-on effect of causing damage to his Achilles tendon. The former Blackburn and Newcastle player had been expected to return to active service before Christmas, but after he underwent surgery on the injury during the close season the medicalverdict was bleak.

"Let's clear it up," O'Leary said as he ran through a lengthy casualty list for Leeds' Champions' League qualifier at home to TSV 1860 Munich tonight. "David will be out all season. We lost him last November and still finished third in the Premiership and reached the last four of the Uefa Cup, so we don't want to be making excuses on that score, but it's obviously a blow."

Batty has played only 31 times for Leeds, his home-town club, since rejoining them from Newcastle for £4.4m. After being hurt in his comeback game, he played only nine more times during 1998-99, but seemed to have shrugged off the setback when he started the opening 20 fixtures of last season. Another truncated appearance, following his sending-off in Poland, took his total of England caps to 42 in September last year.

Within two months he broke down again, however, and his most recent outing, in a Littlewoods Cup tie at Leicester nine months ago, had to be aborted during the first half. Leeds have since invested a club-record fee of £7.2m in an essentially similar player, Lens' former Everton midfielder Oliver Dacourt, heightening speculation that Batty's prospects of making satisfactory recovery were not bright.

Nigel Martyn, a colleague with club and country, seemed surprised when informed of Batty's indisposition. "It's very disappointing because he is a very good player. He protects the back four, wins the ball and retains it for us really well, and his passing is excellent," he said.

Robbie Fowler will miss the start of the Premiership season. The ankle injury the Liverpool captain sustained during a victory over Glentoran in a friendly match last week will rule the striker out for a month.

Fowler, who missed most of last season with knee trouble, told the club's website yesterday: "The injury is a blow after all I've been through but I am being very positive about it. It's not too bad; I'm a quick healer.

"The doctors he told me I should be out for about a month, and I intend to be fit and strong when I return. It's another challenge for me. I feel good, despite the injury, and I feel confident about my ability."

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