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Sunday, April 25, 1999 Published at 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK

Sport: Football

Keegan hit by England sick-notes

Sol Campbell: Hamstring injury forces the defender to pull out

Kevin Keegan faces a selection crisis ahead of England's friendly with Hungary on Wednesday, after suffering a rash of withdrawals from his already depleted squad.

"This fixture is about as welcome as a virus" - BBC correspondent Mike Ingham
Tottenham captain Sol Campbell was the first to pull out on Sunday - but he was soon joined on the non-appearance list by five others, leaving Keegan with just 16 fit players.

Leeds' young centre back Jonathan Woodgate was injured in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United, whose strikers Andy Cole and Paul Scholes were then also withdrawn.

And the defensive resources were stretched to the limit when it was announced that Aston Villa captain Gareth Southgate and Chelsea full-back Graeme Le Saux were also injured.

In their place, Keegan has called up Everton youngsters Francis Jeffers and Michael Ball and Liverpool's Jamie Carragher.

Friendly furore

The Football Association had been criticised by a number of leading Premiership managers for staging the match at a crucial time in the season.

[ image: Jonathan Woodgate: Will have to wait for his first cap]
Jonathan Woodgate: Will have to wait for his first cap
When Keegan selected his squad last week he came to a deal with both Arsenal and Manchester United over which of their players he called up.

But despite his forward-thinking, Keegan has still been deprived of the players he needs to make the match a meaningful exercise ahead of the crucial Euro 2000 qualifiers.

The absence of so many big players increases the chances of uncapped hopefuls, like Sunderland's Kevin Philipps and Michael Gray and Leicester's Emile Heskey, starting against Hungary.

War zone

Tottenham central defender Campbell had admitted he was not comfortable at the prospect of making the trip to Budapest which is 160 miles from the Serbian war-zone border.

The official reason behind Campbell's withdrawal is a hamstring injury picked up in Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by West Ham.

But his manager George Graham has made it clear that he does not agree with Keegan's decision only to give consideration to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

"I can see why the top clubs in the Premier League didn't want their players picked for the Hungary game but they shouldn't be the only clubs to be considered," he said.

"I want my players as fresh as possible for our last few games of the season. We are facing all the top three teams as well as Liverpool in the next few weeks and I want to complete a good season by finishing as high as we can.

"But playing an unnecessary England friendly at this stage, especially if there is any possible danger, doesn't help anybody."

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