Hinchcliffe out for the season

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England's World Cup hopes have been dealt a major blow with the news that the Everton defender Andy Hinchcliffe has been ruled out for the rest of the season with knee ligament damage.

The 27-year-old was a surprise call-up by the new England manager Glenn Hoddle for his first squad, making his debut in the 2-0 win against Moldova and keeping his place for the subsequent victories over Poland and Georgia.

It seemed likely that Hinchcliffe would stay in the left-sided wing-back role for February's crucial qualifier against Italy at Wembley, but he damaged his knee when he crashed into advertising boards during Everton's goalless draw with Leeds on Saturday and his manager, Joe Royle, yesterday revealed the extent of the damage.

"Andy will have major surgery. It's a terrible blow for him, for Everton and for England," Royle said. "You've got to feel for the lad. It's taken Andy a comparatively long time to reach the top of his profession and now he's suffered a setback like this. We had no idea the injury was so serious, but the damage has been revealed."

The news leaves a selection dilemma for Hoddle in the build-up to the biggest game so far of his England management career.

Stuart Pearce, who reversed his decision to retire from international football at Hoddle's request, is currently wrestling with the additional burden of caretaker manager at struggling Nottingham Forest and has admitted the dual roles could hinder his chances of international selection.

Graeme le Saux, who only returns to first-team action at the end of October after missing 10 months with a broken leg is a likely beneficiary.

Middlesbrough look set to add to their long list of foreign imports this week by signing the Slovakian player of the year, Vladimir Kinder, for pounds 1m. The 27-year-old Slovan Bratislava left-back has been offered a four-year contract after impressing on trial.

Cardiff City have changed the role of their manager Russell Osman after just six weeks in charge with the director of football, Kenny Hibbitt, taking charge of first-team affairs. The move came before yesterday's 2-0 victory over Torquay at Ninian Park. Osman took over when Phil Neal moved to Manchester City. However, Hibbitt insisted yesterday: "Russell Osman is still manager of this football club."

The Monte Carlo-based businessman, Lawrie Lewis, has withdrawn from the battle to take control of Nottingham Forest. He is now urging Forest's 209 shareholders to vote for the Nottingham consortium headed by Sandy Anderson at an EGM on 6 January. Lewis had originally pulled out last week, but then came back into contention on Monday in a power struggle which has already dragged on for several months.

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