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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 15:49 GMT

Sport: Football

England hit by striker crisis

Kevin Keegan - called up Chris Armstrong to bolster his squad

England boss Kevin Keegan has been hit by a massive injury crisis as Michael Owen, Darren Anderton, Robbie Fowler and Chris Sutton were all forced out of the squad to face Poland on Saturday.

BBC Football Correspondent Mike Ingham: "They are now lacking depth"
Tottenham's Chris Armstrong has been called up as a surprise replacement to give Keegan options as he prepares for the crucial clash.

Keegan said: "With so many players out with injury I have called up Chris ... he's got pace and he won't let us down."

The England boss, who has already lost the services of David Batty and Andy Hinchcliffe for the Euro 2000 qualifier at Wembley, has been left with just 16 fit outfield players in his squad.

Only two of them are strikers - Alan Shearer and Andy Cole - so they will definitely start the game and a replacement striker, possibly Les Ferdinand, is almost certain to be called up for the crucial clash.

[ image: Anderton: Forced out]
Anderton: Forced out
England need to beat Poland to stand a realistic chance of qualifying for Euro 2000 and the lack of strike-power will be a worry for the temporary coach.

Keegan has seen his squad decimated by the six withdrawals ahead of the crucial qualifier.

Owen had been deemed the major doubt with the hamstring injury he picked up against Derby 11 days ago but even on Wednesday Keegan could not have imagined that three other players would also be forced to rejoin their clubs.

He had appeared optimistic over the chances of Anderton, Fowler and Sutton but has been forced to admit defeat after declaring that he would not require any player to risk their career by playing for their country when only half-fit.

Having laid down the strict guideline that the injury doubts would have to prove their fitness before Thursday's training session at Wembley, he was then obliged to rule them out when they did not recover in time.

Anderton's recurring groin injury has yet again come back to haunt him but at least there is considerable cover on the right-side of midfield in the shape of David Beckham and Ray Parlour.

The Tottenham midfielder's absence could well mean that Steve McManaman is picked to play on the left side of the team, unless Keegan chooses a back five instead.

But it is up front that his major problem lies with Cole now certain to win his first cap for his country alongside England captain Shearer.

At least the injury problems which ruled keepers David Seaman and Nigel Martyn out of training on Monday seem to be easing.

But at the moment, Keegan only just has enough players to sit on the Wembley bench as his seven substitutes, given that three of his remaining 19 fit players are goalkeepers.

And if there was any doubt as to the scale of the injury jinx ahead of Keegan's first game in charge, even Liverpool youngster Steve Gerrard - with the squad purely for experience - was forced out with a back problem.

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