Injury-hit England call up Young

LONDON, England – England coach Steve McClaren has been forced to call up defender Luke Young for Wednesday’s vital Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia after Ashley Cole was ruled out.

Left-back Cole was stretchered off during Saturday’s 3-0 Group E victory against Estonia at Wembley which left England able to qualify for the finals if they can win in Moscow.

The Chelsea player suffered what seemed to be a serious ankle injury, though the English FA’s Web site did not reveal how long the 26-year-old would be sidelined.

Young, who joined Middlesbrough in the summer, won the last of his seven caps against Argentina in November 2005 — all of which came playing on the right side of defense.

He is unlikely to take Cole‘s starting place, with McClaren having the option of using Reading’s Nicky Shorey, the versatile Phil Neville or another Everton player in Joleon Lescott.

Lescott made his debut at center-back against the Estonians after coming on at half-time to replace Rio Ferdinand, who was in danger of a suspension after receiving a booking earlier in the qualifiers.

But he has played on the left for his club, and was switched to the flank after Cole went off.

The 25-year-old said: “I’ve played there for my club and Joe Cole really helped me. I also had the experience of Sol Campbell alongside me, so they made it as easy as possible.”

Skipper John Terry will be assessed on Monday to see whether he can return from the knee injury that ruled him out of the weekend game and line up alongside Ferdinand.

A draw would leave England needing a point from the final game against leaders Croatia at Wembley next month to confirm their place among the last 16.

McClaren is not worried that the Russians will have the advantage of playing on an artificial surface on Wednesday.

“We have done our research over 100 games that have been played on it and there is no difference between the field turf surface and grass at all,” he said.

“Whatever we are presented with, we will cope with. Win on Wednesday and we will be through. What a great opportunity that is. We should have no fears about it at all.”

Meanwhile, Group B leaders Scotland have received a double blow ahead of Wednesday’s must-win trip to Georgia.

Midfielder Scott Brown and full-back Alan Hutton have pulled out of the squad with injuries suffered in Saturday’s 3-1 win at home to the Ukraine.

Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher will return from injury and Reading’s Graeme Murty has been called up by boss Alex McLeish.

However, forwards Garry O’Connor and Lee McCulloch are suspended after being booked at Hampden.

The Scots are one point ahead of world champions Italy and two in front of France with two games still to play.