That’s what a certain newspaper is claiming today in typically overblown fashion. While it’s common to see clubs withdraw players ahead of international friendly matches (Sir Alex Ferguson has made this into an art form), it’s less common to see them do this for World Cup qualifying fixtures.
Nevertheless, never let genuine injury get in the way of a good story, and The Sun have added one and one together, got two, spotted a supposed pattern emerging and made up a leading sports article as a result. It’s child’s play, this journalism malarkey! Steven Gerrard having an operation wouldn’t have been enough on its own, but the fact that Owen Hargreaves has also withdrawn means that, all of a sudden, a certain Italian is ‘reeling’!
ENGLAND boss Fabio Capello is reeling after two stunning blows from Rafa Benitez and Alex Ferguson.
Capello was “surprised” by Gerrard’s withdrawal after he played two hours against Standard Liege on Wednesday.
Fergie says Hargreaves needs to be treated carefully after a long-standing tendinitis problem and intends to give him only an hour.
Ferguson said: “It is impossible for him to go away with England.
“Against Andorra, YOU could play. But Croatia will be very difficult and you need players at 100 per cent — Owen is not ready for that.
“It is very unlikely that Fabio would risk him.”
If England are such a great footballing nation, surely they can cope without a couple of midfielders for these upcoming qualifiers? Would Hargreaves and Gerrard both have played if they were fit? Probably not. Nevertheless, it’s clear that footballers are becoming an increasingly precious commodity to clubs, and that international football is an inconvenience to Premier League managers.