Everton could be heading for more controversy over their handling of Wayne Rooney, just days ahead of England's crunch trip to Turkey. There is now the prospect that the 17-year-old Rooney may not have had a full first-team game for three weeks prior to the showdown in Istanbul.
Rooney has been left on the bench for Everton's last two games, and there is a doubt whether the manager, David Moyes, will use the youngster from the start at Tottenham on Saturday. That would send Rooney off to join up with England next week having not played a full match since Everton's defeat at Middlesbrough on 21 September.
When questioned over Rooney's involvement following the 4-0 win over Leeds on Sunday, and whether Moyes would continue to handle the teenager carefully, his answer was "very much so".
Moyes has plenty of striking options, increased by the return to action of Kevin Campbell and Francis Jeffers in Monday's reserve defeat by Liverpool - and that means Rooney can be rested much more readily.
Rooney came on as a substitute against Stockport in the Carling Cup and then late in the Leeds game, and Moyes will be hard pushed to change a winning front line at White Hart Lane.
Duncan Ferguson is in his best form for several years and Tomasz Radzinski was also hugely impressive against Leeds. And with James McFadden also having made a fine start to his Goodison Park career, Moyes is at last able to give Rooney the rest he believes he needs.
There have been occasions, certainly towards the end of last season, when Everton's injury crisis was so bad Rooney had to play in the chase for Champions' League qualification, something Everton ultimately failed to achieve.
But now Moyes has McFadden, Ferguson, Radzinski, Campbell, Jeffers and even the youngster Nick Chadwick to chose from. The opportunities are now there for the manager to carry out his long-held belief that Rooney should be carefully eased through a Premiership season.
And that would not help England's preparation for Turkey, with the national manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, seeing one half of his first-choice front pairing of Michael Owen and Rooney being without match practice for three weeks prior to the climax of England's Euro 2004 qualifying group.
Campbell is the latest experienced striker to be staking his claim for a first-team start at Everton.
The former Nottingham Forest and Arsenal forward ended six weeks out with a hamstring injury by playing the full 90 minutes of the reserve game with Liverpool. "I felt great," Campbell said. "There are no problems with the hamstring and it is nice to get my first 90 minutes under my belt.
"I have been training now for two weeks but I suppose I still have got a bit to do. This was my first full game back, but I have been working really hard. Obviously, reserve-team football and first-team football are two different things but I feel my fitness is good and that is all I can do."
Moyes said: "Kevin is not far away from coming back because he is naturally fit and keeps himself in good condition. Both he and Franny looked like they needed a game to get them ready."
Monday's reserve game was not without its controversy. A tackle by Campbell on Danny Murphy left the Liverpool midfielder in agony and he had to be carried off with ankle ligament damage. However, Murphy has refused to blame Campbell for the injury.
Murphy has had a scan and accepts that he will not only be out of action for a crucial month of Liverpool's season, but also England's European championship qualifier against Turkey.
A Liverpool spokesman confirmed the scan result, saying: "It is very much what we expected, Danny has a slight tear of the ankle ligament and will be out for around a month."
The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, insisted: "The tackle on Danny was not malicious and I was pleased that Kevin Campbell had the grace to enquire how Danny was after the game."
It was a telling comment from Houllier, who had seen fit to criticise Blackburn's attitude following the injuries to Jamie Carragher and Milan Baros recently.
Murphy added: "Both Kevin and Everton manager David Moyes came to see me straight after the game to make sure it was not a serious injury. I thought that was a really nice gesture by them. It was nothing more than a clumsy tackle by Kevin really, just one of those things. It is not a bad knock and I am looking at four weeks out, tops. I hope it will clear up quickly."Reuse content