Sheringham pulls out with cracked ribs

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The Independent Online
The entangled fates of Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes were given another twist yesterday when Sheringham withdrew from the England squad to play Moldova next Wednesday.

Scholes, whose hopes of assuming Eric Cantona's mantle at Old Trafford were dented by Sheringham's pounds 3.5m summer arrival, now looks like taking the older man's place in the World qualifier at Wembley.

Sheringham withdrew after a bone scan revealed him to have two broken ribs. He has been carrying the injury since Manchester United's match at Leicester 13 days ago, but had assumed he was just suffering from bruised ribs. He then played against Everton - when he scored his first goal for United - and Coventry. He will now miss United's opening Champions' League game against Kosice, in Slovakia, on 27 September.

While the England coach is disappointed at losing Sheringham from Wednesday's match, he is more concerned at the prospect of being without him in Rome on 11 October. "He has shown a lot of character to keep playing, but he will now be out for two to three weeks," Hoddle said. "Then he will need to get match fit again, so he must be a doubt for Italy. People talk about the SAS (Shearer and Sheringham), now we could lose both of them. However, I have five other forwards in this squad."

One of them is Emile Heskey, who will now stay with the squad instead of dropping down to the Under-21 team. Scholes, though, is the most likely replacement. He impressed after making his debut last summer, playing especially well against Italy in Le Tournoi de France when he linked well with Ian Wright.

"That was an advantage of going to Le Tournoi," Hoddle said. "I was able to groom a couple of players and Scholes was one of them. He has ability and temperament, is very astute on the ball, has good feet and vision. He makes good runs beyond the ball and has an astute football brain.

"I wanted to bring him in earlier but he was not playing enough for United. Once I did call him in I saw enough on his first day of training to suggest he has immense talent.

"One of the great things about him is his versatility. I learned last summer that come the World Cup the lucky coaches will be the ones who have four players who can play in three different positions. Scholes is one of those, as is David Beckham and Rob Lee."

Lee agreed. "I think being versatile keeps you in the squad," said the Newcastle captain, who has played well for Hoddle after being discarded by Terry Venables for Euro 96.

"Venables picked from about 13 or 14 players, the rest of us were squad players," Lee said. "It does help the spirit when everyone knows that if they are in form with their club and doing well at training they have a chance of playing. The mood here is as good as it would be at a club."

Lee admitted, though, that England's preparations had been had affected by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. "You can't get away from it. The players talk about it and a lot of us watch it on TV in our rooms," he said. "It has been like one of your family dying. I don't think a lot of people realised how much it would affect them. The whole country is grieving."

Referring to the postponement of Newcastle's match at Liverpool last Sunday, he added: "None of the players wanted to the game to go ahead. It would have been impossible to play then or on the day of the funeral."

Scottish FA chief under fire, page 26