Did Eriksson have a last-minute change of heart over Jansen?

World Cup 2002: Blackburn forward 'shattered' after gaining impression he was on the plane
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The Independent Online

The mysterious non-appearance of Blackburn Rovers' Matt Jansen in Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad has left some bemused and angry expressions in the vicinity of Ewood Park. According to sources close to the club, the Rovers forward appeared as good as booked on the flight out to England's pre-tournament week in Dubai when the England coach departed from Anfield after watching him in the 4-3 defeat by Liverpool.

Yet, by the following day, there was no sign of Jansen in the final 23 – and no message from Eriksson. It was not until Jansen was driving home from the Blackburn training ground on Thursday – after the England coach had revealed his squad for Japan and Korea – that he received a call from his agent, conveying the news. Jansen described himself as "bitterly disappointed" and "shattered", not so much that he had failed to make the cut but because he had been confidently led to believe that a place was his.

Jansen came strongly into England contention only a month ago. It is understood that Eriksson's assistant Tord Grip attended Blackburn's game against Chelsea, ostensibly to watch David Dunn, but came away excited by the contribution of Jansen. The Swede was entranced by the former Carlisle United and Crystal Palace player's pace and control, and his ability to use either foot. He could also drop back into the problem position of left midfield, if necessary.

Unfortunately sickness prevented Jansen from playing in the friendly against Paraguay. However, Grip continued to press Jansen's claims. Eriksson, it is believed, was not quite so convinced as his number two. However, Jansen was encouraged to postpone a planned hernia operation and was fitted for the special DVT (deep vein thrombosis) stockings, which are being supplied to all prospective members of the England squad because of the long flights to the Far East.

On Wednesday night, Eriksson went to watch the striker at Anfield, leaving Grip to view Arsenal's championship-decider at Old Trafford. Before he departed from Anfield, Eriksson was said to have given a strong impression that Jansen might be in his 23. By the following morning, curiously 90 minutes later than the squad announcement had been planned, Martin Keown, whose combative display against United had been greatly admired, was in; Jansen's name was conspicuously absent. And there was no call from the England coach to the Blackburn player as there had been to the other rejected players.

Eriksson refutes suggestions that, on the drive back to London, there were any late changes as he and Grip debated the final names on the list. When the England coach was asked whether, on that journey back from the North-west, he had changed his mind because of the previous night's games, he responded obliquely: "I got a lot of confirmation rather than seeing a new face."

When it was put to him that Blackburn had said they had been informed the previous night that Jansen was in the squad, he insisted: "That might be true, but not from me. I talked to [Gérard] Houllier about his players yesterday, and I talked to Graeme Souness about his players, and of course about Matt Jansen in that case. I never said to them who I was going to pick, or not pick."

The strongest possible explanation is that there was something lost in communication. Eriksson's English is still far from perfect. The fact that Jansen had never played for England and that he was troubled by a hernia problem may have counted against him in the final analysis. But as the Swede's acolytes within the FA must have been aware that Jansen believed he would be included it is somewhat surprising that the player was not contacted by the England coach.

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