McClaren: Hargreaves not ruled out

September 6, 2007

England coach Steve McClaren remains optimistic Owen Hargreaves will be fit to face Israel at Wembley on Saturday.

Hargreaves pulled out of training on Wednesday, complaining of tightness in his thigh.

He was immediately sent for a scan, prompting speculation that he would miss the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier with Israel.

However, McClaren has confirmed the damage is not extensive and he is still hopeful the Manchester United midfielder will be available.

'Owen's thigh felt tight after we started training on Wednesday, so he sat out most of the session,' said McClaren.

'As a precaution he was sent for a scan.

'Thankfully the scan only revealed a small problem and we are hoping it will clear.

'We are still hoping he will be available for Saturday, and he is definitely not ruled out.'

McClaren confirmed the new injury is not related to the tendinitis problem Hargreaves has been suffering from since the end of last season.

Before reporting the fresh problem, the Manchester United star had spoken of his belief he could get through two games in five days, even though it is something he has not managed since completing an £17million move from Bayern Munich this summer.

And McClaren feels the determination Hargreaves has to play could be a factor in whether the 26-year-old makes it onto the field.

'We will give Owen as much time as we can before making a decision,' he said.

'He is a determined character and we know that he really wants to play. Naturally, we won't take any unnecessary risks with him.'

Hargreaves' injury is the latest in a series of setbacks to hit the England camp.

Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and David Beckham have already been ruled out of the Israel game, along with Gary Neville and Kieron Dyer.

Such are McClaren's lack of options that Peter Crouch, who is suspended this weekend, was forced to play in midfield during Tuesday's training session.

Aston Villa's Gareth Barry is the man most likely to profit should Hargreaves fail in his fitness quest, although at least McClaren was able to offer some good news, confirming Steven Gerrard came through training yesterday without a problem.

The Liverpool captain is still suffering some slight discomfort from his broken toe but it is looking increasingly likely he will be able to face Israel without resorting to a pain-killing injection.

'We did have some positive news on Steven Gerrard yesterday, when he played a part in training without any problems,' said McClaren.

'We will continue to assess him closely and stay in regular contact with the medical staff at Liverpool Football Club, before making any decision as to whether he will play.'

McClaren certainly finds himself in an unenviable position, with so many key men either out, struggling or, in Michael Owen's case, just coming back from major injury.

Yet the former Middlesbrough coach remains resolute in his belief England can achieve a positive result at the weekend to retain a realistic chance of reaching next summer's European Championships.

'As I have already said, regardless of who is injured, we are looking forward to Saturday with confidence,' he said.

'I have told the players we have enough ability in the dressing room and it is up to us to go out and get the result. We are good enough to do so.