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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 15:03 GMT
Leeds pair's England hope
Lee Bowyer (right) has World Cup hopes
BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty examines the future of Leeds United pair Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate at the end of their court case.

Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate have suffered contrasting footballing fortunes as the shadow of a court case hung over them.

Bowyer has put the personal trauma behind him with a series of outstanding performances for Leeds United.

Woodgate, however, has been a peripheral figure who has been largely forgotten in a footballing sense this season.

Bowyer and Woodgate both had high hopes of being part of England's future under new coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

But that proved impossible with the FA insisting they could not be considered for England duty in the light of their personal circumstances.

Woodgate - gifted defender
Now Bowyer, in particular, can have high hopes of coming out of a dark period of his life into the light of the World Cup in Korea and Japan.

Indeed, he may well have been involved in England's qualifying campaign already had the FA ruling not been imposed upon him.

Bowyer fills all the criteria for what is widely regarded as England's major problem position, namely an effective and gifted left-flank player who is a proven talent at the highest level.

The Londoner's on-field discipline may need fine tuning, but there is no doubt he has the talent to make a major difference to both Leeds United's title challenge and England's World Cup hopes.

He is admired within the England hierarchy, has shown mental toughness to put his troubles to one side and still play for Leeds - and answers one of his country's toughest footballing questions.

Woodgate has already represented England, and could well have been established as an automatic choice but for the interruption to his career.

Eriksson faces choice
Leeds have effectively done without Woodgate this season, and his place in the side has been filled by 18m Rio Ferdinand - who has taken advantage of his absence to become an England regular - and Dominic Matteo.

Woodgate is an elegant central defender whose style is suited to the international stage, but he faces a battle to rebuild his life, regain fitness and then his Leeds place before England is even an option.

Leeds United will be relieved that they can now make plans with the services of two of the country's outstanding young players included in their blueprint for success.

And for Bowyer, in particular, the traumatic story may yet have a happy footballing ending with England next summer.


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