Gazza injury scare

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The Independent Online
Paul Gascoigne is suffering from a dose of blood poisoning that has kept him out of England's starting line-up against a Hong Kong club side today.

Gascoigne was not included in the team after a blister he suffered during England's 3-0 win over China on Thursday turned septic during the journey to Hong Kong. Gascoigne developed a lump in his groin and he found training difficult yesterday.

The problem stemmed from the boots Gascoigne wore during the match against China. When the final whistle went Gascoigne immediately pulled them off and spoke to the England physios, Alan Smith and Dave Butler. He then sat down during the presentation ceremony while most of the team stood. It was thought he was suffering from exhaustion as he had covered a lot of ground, but the problem proved more serious.

The poisoning emerged during Friday's three-hour flight to the colony, and England will be hoping that it has cleared up before Gascoigne is subjected to the 13-and-a-half hour flight home on Monday.

While the injury is unlikely to prevent Gascoigne from appearing in Euro 96, it is something of a disappointment for the Hong Kong spectators who were more anxious to see him in action than any other player. He may be among the substitutes.

In a departure from recent policy, Venables has selected a flat back four for the game, featuring Tony Adams and Steve Howey in central defence. It seemed a curious choice for a game which England expected to dominate, especially as the chance to play Paul Ince, who is being groomed for a new role as defender-cum-midfielder, in the back four was passed up. Ince was chosen in midfield.

Venables said he had not considered playing Ince at the back but would not say why. The most likely reason was the need to give games to both Howey and Adams. Venables did detail the reasons for Phil Neville's inclusion at right-back, explaining: "He is very comfortable on the right and has spent much of his career there. I wanted to see him playing there for us." The decision raises the prospect of the Neville brothers, Phil and Gary, competing for the same position in Euro 96.

The other main interest in a team which showed eight changes from that which beat China 3-0 was the inclusion of Les Ferdinand in attack.

England arrive home early on Tuesday and their 22-man squad for Euro 96 is expected to be announced the next day.

England (4-4-1-1): Seaman; P Neville, Adams, Howey, Pearce; Stone, Ince, Platt, McManaman; Sheringham; Ferdinand.

Flexible England, page 24