Injury blow for Cole

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The Independent Online


Andy Cole is never likely to win a Mr Happy audition - except when he scores a goal - but at Bisham Abbey yesterday there was genuine reason for his grim countenance. The pounds 7m man has suffered a recurrence of his shin splints injury and had to stand forlornly in the rain as England trained without him.

Cole will see a specialist on Friday but England fear he will be out of Saturday's opening Umbro Cup match, against Japan, and the two subsequent ties against Sweden and Brazil. He may even require an operation.

The injury originally surfaced in the autumn and delayed Cole's entry into the England squad. It was allieviated only by rest - he missed a month for his then club, Newcastle United. But it returned after his move to Manchester United and, by the end of the season, he was playing but not training. Although he took part in the warm-up yesterday, he was soon suffering increasing pain and had to step out.

"It got worse, which is worrying," Terry Venables, the England coach, said. "We will have to play it by ear and see what the specialist says."

Cole's absence could mean an England debut for Stan Collymore, who is widely expected to supercede him as England's most expensive player.

Collymore, who is expected to leave Nottingham Forest for more than pounds 8m after the tournament, looked a class act in training yesterday, drifting in from the left, easing past defenders and firing in regular shots. He was paired, in what may be an advance look at England's next forward line, with Alan Shearer.

David Unsworth and Richard Shaw, experiencing their first taste of a senior England squad, also impressed. Having been called up in the absence through injury of Tony Adams, Steve Howey and Neil Ruddock, their chances of a debut were further improved by a rib injury to Gary Pallister. Pallister is in danger of missing Saturday's match, as is David Platt, the captain, who has a hamstring problem.

While they watched morosely, David Batty and Paul Gascoigne revelled in being involved. Because of injury they have played once for Venables's England between them - Batty came on for Gascoigne in his first game 14 months ago. Yesterday Gascoigne, his bleached hair looking as if it was growing a green fungus, was so eager he robbed the Blackburn player of possession.

He did not make a habit of it but it was that sort of involvement which had Venables purring afterwards: "He put himself through all the physical rigours. It was a long day and he finished it well. He wants it badly."

Venables is yet to commit himself as to whether Gascoigne will get his chance. "I will just have to go on what I see," he added. "I want to see how he goes from day-to-day."

n Sudden-death overtime will be used for the first time in a major competition in next summer's European Championship in England. Knock-out matches level at the end of 90 minutes will be decided by the first goal. If neither side has scored after a further 30 minutes, the match will be decided by a penalty shoot-out.

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