Wales plans for their vital ÿ EURO 2004 qualifying match against Azerbaijan, have disrupted by the withdrawal of several key players through injury.
Birmingham City midfield player Robbie Savage became the latest to withdraw from the squad due to a groin injury picked up in Sunday’s Premier League clash with Fulham.
Ironically, Wales boss Mark Hughes had originally appealed to FIFA for the right to withdraw players from Sunday’s Premier League fixtures, but the game’s governing body sided with the clubs in refusing to implement its’ four-day rule.
The loss of Savage, a tireless worker in midfield, is a significant blow for Hughes.
“Robbie is very sore,” said Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager.
“If we had a game on Wednesday – or even next Saturday – then he would be struggling to play.”
Further bad news for Hughes came with loss of Newcastle United dynamic striker Craig Bellamy, who has withdrawn because of troublesome knee injury.
Bellamy has been advised to play only one match per week and Newcastle boss Sir Bobby Robson, has refused to let Bellamy travel too Baku.
“I had a request from Wales to let his one game this week be on Wednesday,” said Robson.
“I understand, I was a national manager, but Bellamy is not ready for that sort of situation.”
Bellamy and Savage join Jason Koumas, Mark Pembridge, Andy Johnson, Nathan Blake and Gareth Taylor on the injury list. Swansea City striker James Thomas, Reading defender Adrian Williams and Wigan Athletic striker Neil Roberts have been called up.
Wales, who have not qualified for the finals of a major tournament since 1958, currently top the group after winning their opening two matches against Finland and Italy.