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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
England players ponder boycott
Rio Ferdinand
England players are meeting on Wednesday evening to decide whether to pull out of their Euro 2004 decider.

And BBC Sport understands that Rio Ferdinand, the player at the centre of the row, has urged his team-mates to play the match.

The country's most important game for two years now hangs in the balance, with the Football Association warning England face disqualification if they do not play against Turkey.

The players' decision is expected to be revealed at 2115 BST when Sven-Goran Eriksson and FA boss Mark Palios will read a statement.

The unprecedented stand-off between England's international players and the game's governing body was sparked by the exclusion of Ferdinand over his failure to attend a routine drugs test.

Earlier in the day, FA spokesman Paul Barber had insisted the FA was not willing to back down.

"The players want Rio back in the squad but the FA is not prepared to do that," said Barber.

"The players are considering a number of options, and one of those options is not to travel to Turkey.

"If we do not compete on Saturday according to the regulations as I understand them, we will be disqualified from the tournament."

Barber said the FA was not prepared to speculate about drafting in other players if the current squad pulls out.

England's Under 21s team flew to Istanbul as scheduled on Wednesday night and could in theory take the field in place of their senior colleagues.

Meanwhile, World Cup winner George Cohen has condemned the rebellion.

"It is utterly deplorable that they would consider not turning out for their country.

"I am sure the vast majority of fans are appalled by this. There must be 11 players in the country who would love to play for their country and would give 101%, and maybe Eriksson should call on them."

The Turkish team have admitted they are enjoiyng the disarray in the England camp ahead of such a crucial match.

The winner of the match will top Group Seven and qualify automatically for next year's European Championships.

Coach Senol Gunes said: "Them being in trouble and having low morale makes us happy, but they should solve their problems, which have nothing to do with us, by themselves.

"We have only one thought on our minds. To go on the pitch and win."

Team manager Can Cobanoglu claimed the English players' boycott threat was a "tactic to change the agenda".

"The English always cause incidents in a bid to change the agenda and then they come and play the match.

"I would prefer playing the English side in Istanbul and defeating them to winning because of a no-show. That would be a nicer way to go to Portugal."

The rebellion began on Tuesday when the players reportedly voted in favour of a boycott after Ferdinand's exclusion for failing to attend a routine drugs test.

Ferdinand must attend a hearing on Monday to account for his breach of doping regulations.

Speaking about Ferdinand, Barber said: "We made a difficult decision after many hours of consideration. We will not reverse that decision."

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor told BBC Radio Five Live: "There is a strong feeling of solidarity and the players are very concerned.

"They have made those feelings known to the FA."

The BBC's Adam Parson's
"Eriksson is quietly sympathetic to the players' revolt"

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