Glandular fever has ended Scott Parker's season prematurely only days after he was given hope that it might climax with a place at the World Cup finals.
The Newcastle United midfielder was among several "fringe" players singled out by the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, for medical and fitness assessments in case they received late call-ups to the England squad.
It offered Parker, 25, more encouragement after his caretaker-manager at Newcastle, Glenn Roeder and several other respected judges suggested he deserved to be considered for the finals in Germany.
But the former Chelsea player has been totally erased from Eriksson's plans after being diagnosed with glandular fever. Parker, who is also unlikely to play for Newcastle again this season, will have more tests next week. In the mean time, he has been ordered to stay away from training and rest at home.
Roeder said: "You would expect him to be a bit flat at this stage of the season, but obviously we hadn't suspected he had glandular fever, so it's a blow to us all." Roeder first sensed Parker was not 100 per cent during the game against Bolton at the start of this month.
Roeder said: "I didn't see the Scott Parker I know during the first 15 minutes, he was not running around with his usual energy. If he's had it all that time, it says everything about him as a person. A lot of people give up easily but Scott doesn't. He has kept going and working through the pain barrier, feeling absolutely shattered, but never making a big deal about it."
Roeder had suspected that Parker was struggling because he had picked up injuries due to playing far more games than he did for Chelsea last season. But United finally ordered blood tests on the player after he was left exhausted at the end of last Sunday's game at Charlton.
Parker still hopes to return before the end of the season, but Newcastle are unlikely to risk him. Roeder said: "He loves playing the game. If - and I stress the word if - he was to miss the last seven games, he would be devastated. But, if we were to push him, we could do some real damage."
The former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier is being linked with United after hinting that he is keen to return to the Premiership. The Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, is an admirer of the Lyon coach, who would be among the candidates if United cannot land their main target, Martin O'Neill.Reuse content