England's striker problems for Euro 2012 have been dealt another setback with the news that Darren Bent could be out for three months with an injury that all but ends his chances of making the tournament.
Bent saw a specialist on Monday to ascertain the seriousness of the ankle injury he suffered in Aston Villa's draw at Wigan Athletic on Saturday and was told the best he could hope for was a 10-week lay-off. That will rule him out until the middle of May, making it unlikely he will play for Villa again this season but Bent has been told the likelihood is it will be longer and that there is a chance he may need an operation.
A Villa statement said: "He faces up to 12 weeks on the sidelines having ruptured ankle ligaments in his left foot and he is unlikely to play again this season."
With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two games of Euro 2012, whoever takes over from Fabio Capello as the England manager, almost certainly Harry Redknapp, now faces a worrying shortage of strikers. Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, with only four substitute appearances for England between them, are expected to lead the attack against Holland at Wembley on Wednesday, with the uncapped Fraizer Campbell on the bench.
For Bent it threatens to be another huge disappointment in an England career that has already seen him left out of the last two World Cups despite being prominently involved in the qualifying stages.
The former Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur striker will wear a protective boot for the next four weeks and has been told to give the injury complete rest for the next seven days. He will see the specialist again next Monday when the swelling goes down. The early scan results have revealed significant ligament damage and, if he has not played for Villa since the end of February, it is most unlikely he would be seen as important enough to risk in Poland and Ukraine.
England have only two friendlies after Holland to finalise their preparations, in Norway on 26 May and a Wembley game against Belgium on 2 June. Those friendlies will almost certainly be used to work on a new-look attack in the absence of Rooney, and the new manager will now take his pick from a pool including Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Bobby Zamora.
Steven Gerrard's candidacy to regain the England captaincy has received a ringing endorsement from his club-mate, Stewart Downing, as the Liverpool midfielder prepares to make his first appearance for his country in 14 months against Holland. A succession of injuries nullified Gerrard's impact under Capello since the friendly against France in November 2010 but, despite playing extra time in Sunday's Carling Cup final victory over Cardiff City, the 31-year-old is expected to start against the Dutch. The interim manager, Stuart Pearce, will announce his choice as captain on Tuesday with Gerrard likely to be granted the honour.
That will find favour among the 21-man party and would see Gerrard leading the side out for the first time since 2010. John Terry was stripped of the armband as he waits to stand trial for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. "Stevie is a big player for Liverpool and England," Downing said. "He is a great influence on players and drives teams on. If he is given the captaincy, that is a good thing. It is the manager's decision who he makes captain but Steven has done it for a few years and done it very well. If he is picked to do it for England again, I am sure he will carry that on as well."
Pearce's options were depleted further by the withdrawal of Tottenham's Kyle Walker with an ankle problem, the full-back joining Tom Cleverley, Bent and Rooney by remaining with his club. Of the players who did report to the team's training base, only 12 trained fully with the remainder undergoing warm-down and pool-work sessions after playing on Sunday. Gareth Barry will continue to be assessed following hamstring and back complaints.
There was an acknowledgement from James Milner, name-checked by Pearce as a potential future captain last week, that Capello's sudden resignation over the Terry issue had been untimely with England's opening Euro 2012 group game, against France in Donetsk, a little over three months away.
"The first thing is that it's not ideal timing changing the manager going into a major tournament but that's football," said the Manchester City midfielder, who was handed his debut by the Italian. "Things happen. The FA obviously thought that was the best thing to happen. But whoever is in charge in that tournament, we'll be ready. If Stuart Pearce took us in, he's got the experience as a player and manager to do that and would do a very good job."