Everton blow as Rooney is forced to miss start of Premiership

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The Independent Football

Everton will be without the striker Wayne Rooney for the first two games of the Premiership season following his weekend injury scare, but the teenage striker should be back to full fitness for England's European Championship qualifying double-header against Macedonia and Liechtenstein in early September.

Yesterday, Everton confirmed Rooney will miss the start of the Premiership season after he fell awkwardly and suffered ankle ligament damage during the club's 3-2 friendly victory over Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday.

Rooney immediately returned to Liverpool from Scotland for medical assessment. An X-ray revealed no break but a scan confirmed the injury, which will keep him out of action for four weeks, meaning will miss Everton's season opener away to Arsenal on 16 August and the home match against Fulham the following Saturday.

Rooney, who was outstanding on his first competitive start for England in the 2-0 win over Turkey at the Stadium of Light in April, will also miss England's friendly against Croatia on 20 August, but Everton's head physiotherapist, Mick Rathbone, believes he should be back for the trip to Macedonia on 6 September and the home match with Liechtenstein at Old Trafford four days later.

Rathbone said: "Wayne had an X-ray in Liverpool on Saturday night and fortunately there was no obvious break. He has been for an MRI scan this morning and visited a consultant who reviewed the information and confirmed the diagnosis as damaged ankle ligaments.

"He will return to see the specialist in 12 days and we anticipate that he will be out for around four weeks."

Rooney was at the centre of a club versus country dispute in May when the Everton manager, David Moyes, said he did not want his prodigy to play in a friendly in South Africa. The England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, still selected him in the squad for the match in Durban, which England won 2-1, but eventually withdrew him from the party after Everton said the 17-year-old had suffered medial knee ligament damage in the final match of the season against Manchester United.

Moyes later allowed Rooney to go to England's training camp in La Manga, saying: "We were not trying to kid anybody on, which I would never do."

Rooney subsequently played the second half of the friendly win against Serbia and Montenegro on 3 June and made his second start for his country in the Euro 2004 qualifying win over Slovakia eight days later.

Everton will now continue their pre-season preparations in Scotland without Rooney, who will undergo rehabilitation at the club's Bellefield training centre.

Elsewhere, Steve Bruce will return from Malaysia early next week to put the finishing touches to his Birmingham squad ahead of a campaign he insists will be all about Premiership survival. Securing a new goalkeeper remains the priority but despite a beneficial pre-season trip to Kuala Lumpur and the arrival of two exciting new signings already, Bruce is keeping his expectations low.

Nevertheless, he and his chairman, David Gold, are well on the way in their plan to establish Birmingham as a top-flight club, and after finishing as the leading Midlands club last term, they are confident of it coming to fruition.

"When I look at the strength and depth of the squad, I believe we are far, far stronger than this time last year going into the campaign," said Bruce after clinching third place in the inaugural FA Premier League Asia Cup yesterday. "So I am delighted about that. We waited 17 years to get into the Premiership. Our second year will be just as difficult.

"It is a tough, tough league and to get there and stay there is a tough job. The players last year did terrifically well. They have got to reproduce that again. My aim is to establish Birmingham as a Premier League club and the one thing you need in the Premiership, without a doubt, is a squad."