LONDON: Gareth Barry has been given an extra 24 hours to prove he has recovered sufficiently from an ankle injury to go to the World Cup with England.
The Manchester City midfielder’s appointment with a specialist who is due to assess the state of his damaged ligaments has been delayed to today, increasing the likelihood that he will be get a green light to travel to South Africa.
England coach Fabio Capello wants Barry to have at least a 50-50 chance of being fit enough to feature in England’s opening match, against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12.
If the odds are less encouraging, the 29-year-old will be left at home forcing Capello to do without a player who has started 19 of the 22 matches England have played under him.
Aston Villa’s James Milner and Manchester United’s Michael Carrick are among the possible replacements if Barry does not make it, although Capello has also been looking at the possibility of switching to a three-centreback system.
The Italian’s thinking on that subject was expected to be illuminated by his line-up for last night’s friendly with Mexico at Wembley, for which England were to be without Chelsea’s John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole as well as Portsmouth goalkeeper David James.
All of them were involved in the May 15 FA Cup final and they have been left behind at England’s pre-tournament training camp in Austria while their team-mates strut their stuff on the much-criticised Wembley turf.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher, one of Blackpool’s scorers in their Division Two play-off win over Cardiff on Saturday, has become the latest player to incur an injury attributed to the surface at the national stadium.
“The England players have got to be careful,” he warned after suffering an ankle injury on Saturday. “One slip and it could all be over for them.”
Terry described the pitch as “the worst we have played on all year” after the FA Cup final and his call for the Football Association to stop allowing the venue to be used for rock concerts, rugby matches and other money-spinning events has been backed by Rio Ferdinand.
“It should be a football stadium,” Ferdinand said. “That is what it was built as.”
The Manchester United defender however played down suggestions that the England players in action last night would be preoccupied by the risk of injury.
“Who knows, there could be a couple of bad pitches out in South Africa,” Ferdinand said.
“You’ve got to deal with what is put in front of you.”
Capello confirmed ahead of the match that he would be handing Joe Hart his second England cap in order to assess the Manchester City goalkeeper’s credentials.
Hart has just finished an outstanding season on loan at Birmingham and appears to have earned a real shot at being England’s number one in South Africa with Capello still undecided between him, James and West Ham’s Robert Green.
“It will be really important for him to play because the pressure at Wembley is really, really big,” Capello said.
“He has played all the games for Birmingham this year and improved a lot. I have confidence in him like the two other goalkeepers. I have time to decide.”
After yesterday’s match, the England players are due to return to Irdning in the Austrian Alps for further training before playing a final warm-up match, against Japan, on Sunday.
Capello will assess the injury fallout from that match before trimming his 30-man provisional squad to his final 23 on June 1. — AFP