GRAHAM TAYLOR called it a 'bumps and bruises day', but shock and horror would have been a more apt description of the initial reaction when Paul Gascoigne yesterday joined up with the England squad complaining of new problems with his old war wound, and was immediately packed off to a specialist.
The consultation was reassuring. The knock on the knee Gascoigne sustained during Lazio's draw with Roma last Sunday had left him stiff and sore, but no further damage had been done to that most publicised of patellas and he is expected to be fit for the World Cup tie against the Netherlands at Wembley on Wednesday.
A scan performed by the specialist, Steven Cannon, revealed some irritated scar issue - a legacy of last year's surgery - and Gascoigne will need treatment for the next two days, but the noises coming from England's Buckinghamshire headquarters last night were encouraging ones. 'Very hopeful,' was the final communique. Gascoigne, who is also troubled by a slight calf strain, has been unable to train all week, but may resume light work today.
Taylor was much relieved by the prognosis. Already without Ian Wright, and with Nigel Winterburn doubtful, he could ill afford to lose the one player blessed with the ability to take on the Dutch at their own passing game.
The manager said: 'Paul reported last night (Thursday) and told me his knee was stiff. It was the knee he had two operations on, so as a precaution we sent him to our specialist in London. He got a knock on Sunday, but we are talking about a knock rather than an injury. I spoke to Lazio today, and they weren't even aware that there was a problem. In two or three days, we hope it would have cleared up completely.'
If the worst came to the worst, what price a recall for Chris Waddle in the playmaking role? About 100-1, it seems.
When he omitted Waddle from the squad, Taylor insisted there were certain circumstances in which he would bring him back. The loss of Gascoigne, perhaps? 'It's a question I can't answer,' he said, with a sidestep of which the man himself would have been proud. We can probably interpret that as a no.
A more likely scenario would see Nigel Clough fill the Gascoigne position just behind the strikers, as he did after his introduction as a substitute during the 2-0 win in Turkey last month. Taylor said he was unworried by the doubt and consequent disruption. 'The situation is nothing to get excited about. I just see it as another day in my life as England manager.'
Experience had taught him to take the slings and arrows in his stride. 'This is the 30th squad I've picked, and the only one not to be affected by injuries was the first. Twenty-nine in succession have been hit in some way, and, for me, this is just business as usual.'
Gascoigne and Winterburn are not the only casualties. Trevor Steven, Lee Sharpe, Carlton Palmer, Chris Woods and Paul Ince are all in the process of recovering from one ailment or another. But all are expected to be fit for selection. 'It's Friday - what I call bumps and bruises day,' the manager shrugged. 'Most things clear up come Wednesday.'
The Dutch, too, have their problems. Worse ones. Already without Marco van Basten, Wim Kieft and Wim Jonk, they lost Ronald Koeman and Berry van Aerle, their two most experienced defenders, yesterday, and have Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp under treatment.
Taylor was not inclined to sympathise. 'When you've had 29 successive squads affected by injury, you think 'so what' when you hear that the opposition have got a few problems.'
The onus may be on England, as the home team, but Taylor says the pressure will be on the Dutch. 'You can lose one game and still qualify, but if you do lose one, you feel you've got to win the others. Holland have already lost one, we haven't'
ENGLAND'S REVISED SQUAD: Woods (Sheffield Wednesday), Seaman (Arsenal); Dixon (Arsenal), Bardsley (QPR), Winterburn (Arsenal), Barrett (Aston Villa), Walker (Sampdoria), Adams (Arsenal), Pallister (Manchester United), Burrows (Liverpool), Keown (Arsenal), Platt (Juventus), Steven (Rangers), Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Ince (Manchester United), Gascoigne (Lazio), Barnes (Liverpool), Sinton (QPR), Sharpe (Manchester United), Merson (Arsenal), Clough (Nottingham Forest), Ferdinand (QPR), Sheringham (Tottenham).
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