Fox giving Francis cause for concern

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The Independent Online

Ruel Fox could plunge Gerry Francis into a tactical crisis if he fails to recover from injury in time for tonight's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Nottingham Forest.

The pounds 4m winger has missed training since damaging a leg muscle near the end of Tottenham's 1-0 Premiership victory over Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

If he is ruled out, it would mean Francis going into one of Spurs' most important matches of the season without his first-choice flank men.

The former Wednesday winger Andy Sinton is cup-tied so Ronny Rosenthal, susbstitute on Saturday, stands by for a recall.

"Foxy has a bit of a dead leg and we probably won't know until the last moment whether he can make it," Francis said. "It's a bit worrying because we are getting short of players at the moment."

England's Darren Anderton is still some way from playing again after groin surgery, Dean Austin is recovering from a cartilage operation, Justin Edinburgh has just returned to training four weeks after similar surgery, and midfielder Darren Caskey is embroiled in pounds 700,000 transfer talks with Reading.

Queen's Park Rangers are also believed to be interested in Caskey, and Francis will arrange transfer terms to ensure Tottenham receive a 25 per cent slice of any sell-on fee.

The Southampton manager, Dave Merrington, has challenged his players to show their Premiership class in tonight's FA Cup fifth-round replay against Second Division Swindon at The Dell.

"It is up to them to show Swindon why they are two divisions above them," Merrington said. "We don't think we are relegation material but we have to prove it.

"Even the Chelsea players said they could not understand why we were struggling after they had beaten us 3-2 last Saturday."

Merrington will be hoping that the prize of a lucrative sixth-round tie at Manchester United will provide the tonic for his men. Saints will be boosted by the presence of their captain, the experienced Barry Venison, who has recovered from a back injury and is set to take over from Tommy Widdrington.

Swindon have been hit by injuries to their two most experienced players. Manager Steve McMahon and the former West Ham, Spurs and Southampton midfielder Paul Allen have both been ruled out. McMahon has a hamstring injury while Allen is suffering from a thigh problem.