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Step closer for Steven Gerrard

Step closer for Steven Gerrard

By Henry Winter Football Correspondent

Last Updated: 1:48am BST 06/09/2007

Steven Gerrard came through England training successfully yesterday, but Owen Hargreaves was whisked off for a scan on his thigh and is doubtful for Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier with Israel at Wembley. Even when the sun comes out for Steve McClaren, a cloud swiftly follows.

Hargreaves sat out Tuesday's training with tendinitis in his knee and then felt his thigh give during yesterday afternoon's practice.

Steven Gerrard
All smiles: but will Steven Gerrard be fit to play against Israel?

It is wretched luck for Hargreaves, who has matured into such an important figure for England. If his thigh fails to respond quickly to treatment, the Manchester United player will be particularly missed against Russia next week when a holding midfielder is essential.

Gareth Barry, who has been in such good form for Aston Villa, filled in for Hargreaves yesterday, sharing central midfield with Gerrard, his friend and room-mate from Euro 2000. Michael Carrick represents an alternative.

Gerrard may still require an injection to numb the pain in his broken toe, a procedure that England's medical staff are determined to avoid. McClaren is adamant that Gerrard will be jabbed, if required, and the head coach's stance was echoed yesterday by one of his players.

"For your country, you've got to, haven't you?'' replied Micah Richards when asked whether he would have a pain-killing jab to get through an international. "Players have before. You would do anything to play for your country. Gerrard is a fantastic player and if he is back he will be a 100 per cent boost.'

A word of caution came from Fred Street, who was England's physio for 22 years. "There is a risk,'' observed Street. "Players can get stood on with big toe injuries and while the injection numbs the pain for two hours, it can get a bit more sore afterwards. I only remember us giving a player an injection for something similar once and that was on Bryan Robson but his injury was not a structural one. He had a sore toe where the nail was lifted.''

One intriguing feature of training yesterday was the sight of Michael Owen being partnered upfront by Andrew Johnson. And with McClaren still to decide on his No 1 goalkeeper, with David James and Paul Robinson seemingly fighting it out, Scott Carson chose an interesting time to impress yesterday.


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