SCOTLAND will have to do without striker Duncan Ferguson this summer in the European Championship finals. The Everton player has been told to have a complete rest to give a troublesome groin injury time to recover for next season and, after disussions with the Everton manager, Joe Royle, and the player himself, Scotland manager Craig Brown has had to accept that the #4m man will be unavailable.

``It is very disappointing, of course,'' Brown admitted, ``because Duncan gave us a different dimension up front, but he has been struggling with the injury.''

It had been thought that the player would require surgery, but word from Liverpool yesterday suggested that the medical answer is for the former Rangers striker to have a rest to prepare for next season.

He has had a few interruptions this year, after having spent time in prison, and having suffered niggling injuries, not to mention lack of match fitness.

``When I spoke to him, he was genuinely upset at missing his chance to take part in Euro 96,'' said Brown, ``and he was also concerned that his withdrawal would affect his selection chances in the future.

``I was able to reassure him that this was just one of those things, and that his place with Scotland in the future would not be affected.''

Everton manager Royle is resigned to the fact that Ferguson will have a summer of complete inactivity.

He said: ``We have made the decision that he won't play in the last two games. We've consulted a specialist and his advice is that rest is the best cure. He will not need an operation.''

Brown had included Ferguson in the squad for next week's friendly against Denmark in the hope of sizing up his form for the finals, but the manager travelled to Goodison Park on Tuesday to watch him against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, aware that the player's nagging groin problem might prevent him taking part next week or in the finals.

``The lad could hardly walk yesterday, and he has been unable to take part in training in recent weeks,'' he said, ``but we have to do without him for a while, and we still have options open to us in that department.''

Brown will not call in any replacement for the senior squad next week, as he feels the strike force still in place - John Spencer, Ally McCoist and Kevin Gallacher - is broad enough for his purposes, but he will monitor the situation after the weekend activities.

It is unlikely, either, that fresh arguments made in favour of goalkeeper Mark Crossley will persuade the manager to change his mind about the Nottingham Forest man's eligibility to be part of the Scotland pool.

Brown discovered that the keeper, who has a Scottish grandparent and could be eligible for Scotland, had played for the England Under-21s in Toulon some years ago, and that rendered him unavailable for selection.

However, the English FA disagreed with that judgment, suggesting that friendlies did not come under the normal rules, and the player himself appeared to be disappointed at the latest turn of events.

``As far as I'm concerned, I'm eligible.'' said Crossley. ``The FA say I'm eligible, and Craig Brown wants me to play, so I can't understand what is going on at the moment. I would not have gone to all the trouble of sending them birth certificates if I didn't think there was a chance of playing for Scotland.''

Some of us might have thought that sending forward certificates was not too demanding an exercise, but it seems that the SFA interpetation of the rules will preclude any further progress on the tartan trail for the Forest keeper.

Meanwhile, Scotland's top scorer, Pierre van Hooydonk of Celtic - with 30 goals to date - does not seem to have impressed his peers in the country as he is not among the nominees for the SPFA Player of the Year title which goes to the man voted as the leading premier division footballer.

Team-mate Tommy Boyd, Paul Lambert of Motherwell, and two Rangers men, Paul Gascoigne and Andy Goram, make up the top league list.