Hoddle stays calm through injury time

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The Independent Online
Given the daily medical bulletins being issued from Team England, it was no surprise to see a M*A*S*H-style tent erected at the corner of the training field at Bisham Abbey yesterday. With red markings on its white fabric, it looked just like a field hospital and one expected to see Hot Lips or Hawkeye to come rushing out to meet a laden helicopter at any moment.

Instead, there was Glenn Hoddle doing his impression of Major Burns as he counted the casualties in his dwindling England squad and insisting nothing was amiss.

The England coach was reduced to putting on a training session for just six outfield players yesterday, which tested even his expertise. This was partly because the survivors of Monday night's Highbury encounter were allowed to rest, but also because, of his original 25-man squad, five never turned up and eight others are carrying injuries.

The upshot was a SOS for re-inforcements, with Stan Collymore, who could not even get into the Liverpool team a week ago, leading the way. Hoddle saw him at Highbury and said: "He has impressed me recently. In Europe last week and at Arsenal, the appetite was there; the talent has always been there. Had he been match-sharp he could have had three at Highbury, but at least he was in there getting chances." Collymore, who disappointed in winning two caps in 1995, said: "I'm delighted. You can't judge someone on just a couple of games."

Phil Neville has also been summoned along with Stuart Pearce, while David May was called up on Sunday. With Saturday's match against Mexico only being a friendly, Hoddle originally left Pearce out so the Nottingham Forest caretaker manager could concentrate on club matters - this is transfer deadline week. However, he rang Pearce yesterday and asked him to Bisham on the understanding he would play.

Of the injured, Gary Neville, Tony Adams and Gareth Southgate (all ankle), are most doubtful. Matt Le Tissier will be assessed once Saturday's injection in his foot has taken full effect. "He is very sore and tender, so we won't know how he is until Thursday," Hoddle said.

Graeme Souness, Le Tissier's club manager, is unhappy with the call-up, and said: "I don't want Matt written off for the season like Paul Gascoigne was after training with England."

An aggrieved Hoddle responded: "Graeme was not here when Gazza was. If he wants to phone me and ask what was done, he can. The injured players will be well treated here. They may receive different treatment from at their clubs - the guys working here are at the very top."

Hoddle also rejected suggestions that it was a mistake to arrange the match. "My first four games were World Cup qualifiers and this is the first chance I have had to experiment. It is common sense to take it. At this stage of next season I will probably settle for a training camp." However, he admitted: "If I had had a crystal ball six months ago and knew how many players would be injured, I may have just done that anyway."

It should have been obvious that with the season reaching a climax, managers would be reluctant to release players who were carrying injuries. Yet the Premiership programme had to be cancelled because of matches elsewhere and it is a chance for Hoddle to see other players and debrief the survivors from the Italy game - one reason why he has insisted the likes of Le Tissier come.