Coach's appeal fails to persuade Scholes to play on for England

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The Independent Online

Paul Scholes last night turned down a final personal appeal from Sven Goran Eriksson to reconsider his decision to retire from international football.

Paul Scholes last night turned down a final personal appeal from Sven Goran Eriksson to reconsider his decision to retire from international football.

The Manchester United midfielder quit the England team after the European Championships to spend more time with his family, and when Eriksson telephoned, he was told Scholes stood by his decision.

"I hoped Paul would change his mind," Eriksson said. "He did not and I respect his decision, but it was worth a try. I had nothing to lose."

In France, Zinedine Zidane this week became the fourth player, following Bixente Lizarazu, Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly, to retire from the international team, but Eriksson said that he thought Scholes would remain the only Englishman to quit. "I don't think others will follow him," Eriksson said. "To play for England is a big thing."

Scholes' retirement creates a vacancy on the left flank and the first audition will be on Wednesday when England play Ukraine at Newcastle. Eriksson will name the squad tonight and while the bulk of the party will have travelled to Euro 2004, there will be several new faces.

Jermain Defoe and Alan Smith are in line to replace injured strikers Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey, while Shaun Wright-Phillips a candidate for a midfield role. Sol Campbell's injury may see a return for Gareth Southgate, but only if Jonathan Woodgate is unfit. On the left, Eriksson could field Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge in tandem.

When the party meet up on Monday night, Eriksson will thank his players for their support in this difficult last month. "I am happy and proud the players supported me," he said yesterday. "I talked to some, like David [Beckham]. He was very supportive. As manager the fans and the players are what is important, if the players do not support you the job is impossible."

Polls and anecdotal evidence suggest the fans are also broadly supportive, though Eriksson was booed in Cardiff last week - possibly by Welsh Manchester United fans. "If the fans turned against me life would be more difficult for me, but I hope that is not the case," Eriksson added. "I hope they continue to judge me on results."

Looking back on Euro 2004, he said: "You can always do better. I always try to learn from games, especially when you lose. I think we were unlucky, we scored a goal that was not allowed which I thought was a goal."

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