McClaren to Eriksson's rescue

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The Independent Online

Although Sven Goran Eriksson has pledged his faith to the national team until at least 2006, the Football Association is keenly aware, following his flirtation with Chelsea, of the ever-present need to have a successor in mind.

Although Sven Goran Eriksson has pledged his faith to the national team until at least 2006, the Football Association is keenly aware, following his flirtation with Chelsea, of the ever-present need to have a successor in mind.

One putative successor fell from the reckoning yesterday when David Platt was sacked as Under-21 coach, but another, Steve McClaren, was welcomed back into the international fold. The Middlesbrough manager steps in for Brian Kidd, who recently underwent surgery after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, for the build-up and execution of England's Euro 2004 campaign.

However, McClaren's first task was to inform Eriksson that Gareth Southgate, Middlesbrough's captain, is unlikely to be fit for the finals. Southgate has a knee injury which is proving slow to heal. With Eriksson due to name a provisional 23-man squad on Monday, Ledley King, Jamie Carragher and Wes Brown are on standby.

Southgate, 33, has been an ever-present at tournaments since 1996 but looks like joining fellow centre-halves Rio Ferdinand and Jonathan Woodgate on the sidelines. McClaren said: "He's worked hard but time is running out for him."

McClaren had been involved with England from November 2001, when he assisted Peter Taylor just before Eriksson's arrival, until the autumn of 2002 when he resigned to concentrate on Middlesbrough.

His return is regarded as temporary, but it reaffirms his status as a potential successor and offers him the chance to reacquaint himself with the international scene.

Eriksson said: "I know Steve very well, respect his abilities and am looking forward to working with him again."

While McClaren's star has continued to rise - he steered Middlesbrough to the Carling Cup this year, their first trophy - Platt's has been in decline.

He was seen, not least by himself, as an England manager in the making when he was appointed England Under-21 coach three years ago. However, his reign has not been a success results-wise. England have won 12 of 26 matches, being well beaten in the 2002 European Championships, and failed to reach this year's finals under him. Platt will still work as an England scout at Euro 2004 but will then part company with the FA.

The 38-year-old, who played under Eriksson in Italy, always considered his primary role as developing players and aiding their progression through to the senior side. Among those who played for him who have done so are John Terry, Jermaine Jenas, Paul Robinson, Glen Johnson, Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge and Darius Vassell. Most Under-21 internationals have, however, disappeared from view.

Platt may return to club management, although his only prior spell was two unsuccessful years with Nottingham Forest from 1999 to 2001.

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