Eriksson needs England to hit form

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson has warned that England must "hit the ground running" in next week's friendly against Ukraine as he looks to put the controversy over his personal life behind him.

Sven Goran Eriksson has warned that England must "hit the ground running" in next week's friendly against Ukraine as he looks to put the controversy over his personal life behind him.

The England coach knows there is considerable pressure on him to achieve creditable results in the opening two games of the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign next month.

Eriksson has alienated several members of the Football Association's board in the wake of his alleged affair with secretary Faria Alam.

While he kept his job, tricky away trips to Austria and Poland on 4 and 8 September respectively have left his players with little time in which to find their sharpness at the start of the new season.

The England coach is therefore concerned to ensure that next Wednesday's friendly in Newcastle gives them the necessary preparation for two such important ties.

Eriksson said: "This is a big game for us. We have important World Cup qualifying matches against Austria and Poland next month, so we must hit the ground running.

"I am very much looking forward to meeting up with the players again. Playing against the Ukraine and players like Sergei Rebrov is the ideal preparation." Eriksson has several selection problems ahead of him, with Wayne Rooney, Sol Campbell and Jonathan Woodgate all out injured, while Joe Cole and Wayne Bridge have also had recent fitness problems.

Indeed, with Rio Ferdinand still suspended, the England coach revealed that there could be a handful of 'new faces' in the squad, which is due to be announced on Saturday night.

Several younger players, who just missed out on the Euro 2004 squad such as Chris Kirkland, Jermain Defoe, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jermaine Jenas, Scott Parker and Alan Smith, will have been in his thoughts.

Other potential candidates, meanwhile, include Jlloyd Samuel, Anthony Gardner, Glen Johnson, Robert Green and Fulham's Zat Knight.

Eriksson said: "There may be new faces in the squad, we will have to see."

The England coach is hoping for a sell-out crowd crowd at St James' Park, where England have previously faced Albania in a qualifier for the 2002 World Cup.

Eriksson, who wants fans to snap up the remaining tickets, said: "I am excited to be going back to St James' Park. It has such a tremendous atmosphere, I can't think of any better place to start our England season."

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