Taylor comforted by his Italian connection: England leave Barnes on sidelines despite lengthening list of injured

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ABSENT friends was the toast - soft drinks only - as England settled in on the Aegean coast last night. Something stronger may be needed when it comes to the last of their World Cup qualifying ties this season, away to Norway in June.

Deprived by injury of no fewer than nine players for the match against Turkey here on Wednesday, Graham Taylor accepted that he would have been in dire straits but for the rule forcing the Italians to release Des Walker, Paul Gascoigne and David Platt from yesterday's Serie A programme.

Sampdoria, Juventus and Lazio had all wanted their respective Englishmen over the weekend, but Taylor invoked the statute which gives international teams first call on their players on seven occasions each year.

England's worry is that the trump card can be played only seven times. The Norway game, which is likely to decide whether or not they qualify for the 1994 World Cup, will be a trip too far for Walker and Platt.

Taylor explained: 'The Italian clubs all asked us if they could have our players this weekend, but we were able to say no because of the Fifa rule. In the summer, who knows.

'We are allowed first claim on seven international dates, and for Walker and Platt that takes us up to the Poland game, on 29 May. Norway, the following week, goes beyond that, but in Gascoigne's case, we are all right. He wasn't fit when we played Spain in September, so that one doesn't count.'

Taylor said he hoped any problems could be resolved amicably, as they have been to date, but the Italian season runs until the second Sunday in June, and Platt has accepted that Juventus may be striving to qualify for a place in Europe.

The situation was of long- term concern, but England were in take-each-match-as-it-comes mode yesterday, and Taylor preferred to look no further than Wednesday's tie. He envied Italy's Arrigo Sacchi, who was guaranteed a 10-day preparation before every international match, but accepted that he could not expect the same advantages until the domestic fixture list was reduced.

Returning to a familiar theme, he said: 'There is too much football, at all levels. I was told that if Italy had been in the seven-nation group, with the two Irelands, they would have reduced Serie A from 18 to 16 clubs, just like that. Their priority is the international team.' The obvious inference was that ours was not.

Taylor confirmed that John Barnes had been dropped for Wednesday, when he will be among England's substitutes. So much for the thinking behind Chris Waddle's omission - that Barnes and Waddle cannot be accommodated in the same team. Waddle and Mark Hateley might reasonably have expected a late call when Paul Merson, Brian Deane, Tony Dorigo and David Bardsley failed fitness tests on Saturday, but Taylor opted to travel with 20 players instead of the 23 nominated 10 days ago.

The one reinforcement is John Beresford, from Newcastle United, who arrived by private jet last night after playing in yesterday's First Division match against Birmingham City. Taylor said Beresford was here for experience only - a statement which confirmed that Andy Sinton, of Queen's Park Rangers, was to fill in at left-back.