Eriksson defends value of American tour

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson extolled the virtues of England's post-season tour to the United States yesterday despite criticism from leading Premiership managers.

Sven Goran Eriksson extolled the virtues of England's post-season tour to the United States yesterday despite criticism from leading Premiership managers.

Eriksson, who faces Northern Ireland this weekend at Old Trafford, has already come under fire from the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, and his United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, over the two-match tour, which takes place at the end of May.

England, who specifically avoided any World Cup qualifiers in June to rest their players, are due to face the United States on 28 May in Chicago and Colombia three days later in New Jersey.

Eriksson could be without any Chelsea or Liverpool players involved in the Champions' League final, as well as David Beckham and Michael Owen, whose La Liga involvement will not yet be over.

Indeed, he revealed that he might select several younger players in his tour squad, presumably the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stewart Downing, Jermain Defoe and Andrew Johnson.

However, Eriksson still believes it is a worthwhile exercise, having already protected his players from competitive games in June when the qualifiers were first organised.

The England coach said: "I am sure after this season ends, some players will need operations so I think there will be some young players going and it is a good opportunity to see them. But I am not worried that the players will get too little holiday as, when we made fixture list for the World Cup qualifiers, my only request was not to play in June.

"I think it is very important that they have a good holiday and think about what is happening next summer with the World Cup. But we also get to play two games against non-European teams, which is good thinking for the World Cup as it is the only chance we get to do that. It is a very good opportunity for me to be with the players for a week and to take a closer look at some of the newer members of the squad in a different environment, both on and off the pitch."

Wenger had claimed that Eriksson himself was "not 100 per cent keen to make that tour as he's not stupid", given that he would be expected to achieve results with only a half-strength squad.

Ferguson also questioned whether his United players would need a rest after a gruelling domestic season, although he has now accepted they must travel to the United States if picked.

The likes of Sol Campbell, who has been troubled by injury problems this season, may still not be selected. But Eriksson would hope to select a stronger squad than the tours Down Under in 1983, when Nigel Spink, Derek Statham and Paul Walsh were capped, and in 1991, when Earl Barrett, David Hirst and John Salako were picked.

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