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FA Cup tickets fall from space

The Toe Poke

Downing to miss England qualifiers

England winger Stewart Downing will miss next month's World Cup qualifiers after Middlesbrough confirmed he needs surgery on a foot injury.

The 24-year-old, who was injured in a tackle by Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov during Saturday's 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium, will have an operation to pin the injury and will be sidelined for around three months.

England play Kazakhstan on June 6 and Andorra four days later as Fabio Capello's side look to secure qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Boro assistant coach Malcolm Crosby said: "I think Stewart is going to be out for two or three months at least. That's not good news for him or the club.

"Stewart has played every game for us this season and has made a big contribution. He hasn't scored goals, but he has worked extremely hard."

The tests carried out so far have not confirmed a fracture, and medics are waiting for the swelling to go down before they can make a full assessment. But even if there is no break, Downing will require surgery.

Crosby said: "Stewart is facing an operation and will be very frustrated.

"I have looked at the challenge again by (Stiliyan) Petrov and, while it was a clumsy challenge, I think it was an accident.

"I don't think that for one minute he meant to do it. Injuries are part of the game and you get used to them happening when you least want them."

Downing, who will miss Middlesbrough's must-win final match of the Premier League season against West Ham as they battle against relegation, could have played his final game for the club as he is expected to move on in the summer.

The winger has been a long-term target of Tottenham Hotspur.


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