Could Parker get his chance at the expense of Barry?
Fabio Capello, the England manager, was facing another potential World Cup crisis last night amid serious fears that Gareth Barry’s participation in the tournament is in jeopardy.
Barry injured his right ankle during the second half of Manchester City’s 1-0 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday evening and, after undergoing a scan yesterday, he was instructed to visit a specialist who will offer a full diagnosis today.
City’s initial assessment was that the injury was merely a sprain, but the England medical team were alerted last night to the possibility that the problem may be far more serious than was first thought.
By the end of the evening, fears of a three-week layoff, which would force Barry to miss a significant chunk of the build-up to the World Cup, were replaced by grave worries about ankle ligament damage that might cast into doubt his participation in the finals.
England take on the United States in their opening game in Rustenburg on June 12, five weeks tomorrow, and although that would appear to give Barry enough time to recover, the noises from the Football Association last night were far less encouraging than they had been earlier in the day.
Even if the specialist is able to issue a more optimistic prognosis today, Barry’s participation in the pretournament training camp in Austria and the warm-up matches against Mexico and Japan are now in danger.
Capello would be aghast at the thought of losing Barry to injury, with the midfield player having started all but three of the manager’s 22 matches in charge.
Barry has established himself in a midfield holding role alongside Frank Lampard and with Owen Hargreaves having made only the briefest of returns to action for Manchester United on Sunday after 19 months out with a career-threatening knee injury and Michael Carrick out of form, Capello could be forced to look at alternatives such as Scott Parker, of West Ham United.
Ledley King, though, is certain to be included in England’s preliminary World Cup squad on Tuesday, with Capello increasingly inclined to take the Tottenham Hotspur captain to South Africa despite his debilitating knee condition.
King has not played for England since being selected by Steve McClaren for a European Championship qualifying match away to Estonia in June 2007, but his outstanding form for Spurs has led Capello to rethink his defensive strategy and to consider taking the injury-plagued 29-year-old to the World Cup as one of four specialist central defenders. Such a move would be a risk, given that Rio Ferdinand is troubled by a persistent back problem.