Green puts England first

CHRIS WISE Norwich City goalkeeper Robert Green revealed yesterday how he had, just for once, put country before club in an attempt to ensure his fitness for the World Cup.


Norwich City goalkeeper Robert Green revealed yesterday how he had, just for once, put country before club in an attempt to ensure his fitness for the World Cup.

Green has been on the sidelines since hurting his ankle during the pre-match warm-up at Sheffield Wednesday two weeks ago and will be missing again on Sunday when the Canaries round off their campaign with a home fixture against Wolves.

But there is no way the injury will affect his availability for England, with his club merely doing their utmost to ensure Sven-Goran Eriksson's current No. 3 doesn't suffer any further damage in the lead-up to the summer extravaganza in Germany.

Green admitted that the World Cup was now his top priority following Norwich's exit for the Championship promotion race - and he is hoping his play safe approach will pay rich dividends when England's squad is announced on May 8.

“The ankle feels good,” he said. “I have been pain-free for quite a while now and it is coming along nicely. It is not a bad injury. I had played with it for a while before I aggravated it.

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“It's one that you just need to manage a bit more carefully than normal because of the situation that is coming up in the summer - hopefully.

“I should be fine for that - it's the main priority at the moment. I am a Norwich player and I want to play for them but when it comes to prioritising now the World Cup has got to be taken into consideration. It's a case of being fit for that rather than playing in the games for Norwich.”

All Green can do now is hope that he is done enough to retain his place in the squad as back-up to Tottenham's Paul Robinson and David James of Manchester City. Liverpool youngster Scott Carson, currently on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, has been mentioned as a possible rival, but the Norwich man has been a regular in the England set-up for the best part of two years now - and with his fitness posing no problems it would be a major surprise if he was axed at this late stage.

“I have been asked many times when the squad is being announced so I remember the date all right,” he told the club's official website. “I am sure the squad has been pencilled in and now it's a case of wrapping yourself up in cotton wool and hoping for the best. If it comes off then it would be a great occasion.”

City manager Nigel Worthington confirmed he would not be rushing the 26-year-old England hopeful back into action for Sunday's clash against Wolves.

“Robert won't play on Sunday but he is coming on very, very well,” he said. “He just won't be quite fit enough for Sunday. Hopefully by the middle of next week he'll be pretty much there.

“England are aware of the situation and they're happy with it. He's got to get himself fit and, rather than push him for this Sunday and risk further injury prior to World Cup selection, we want to be sure he's 100 per cent right.”

Green's absence is likely to give Paul Gallacher a further chance to impress the home crowd with a fourth successive first-team outing.

The Scottish international is currently mulling over the offer of a new contract at Carrow Road and unless he decides to turn it down before the weekend he will surely start against Wolves.

If Worthington gets a negative reply then he might just decide to give 18-year-old Joe Lewis his first senior game, with Gallacher providing back-up from the bench.