Eriksson puts Aston Villa ahead of the Rest of the World

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The Independent Football

News that the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, will be unable to lead the Rest of the World team against Britain and Ireland in Saturday's Shergar Cup, racing's answer to the Ryder Cup, was met with an air of resigned disappointment by Ascot officials yesterday.

The Swede will be in Dublin watching Aston Villa against Leeds United ahead of the friendly between England and Croatia at Ipswich on 20 August and the Euro 2004 qualifier in Macedonia on 6 September.

The FA's head of media relations, Adrian Bevington, said: "Sven was not aware of the [Dublin] fixture when he initially committed to attend the event at Ascot. Indeed, he had requested a list of already arranged fixtures at that time, as it was always his professional view that he should be watching an appropriate football match if one was being played.

"While he is disappointed to withdraw from the event at late notice, he believes it is for the right reasons, with the match against Croatia due to be played in just over two weeks."

Nick Smith, Bevington's opposite number at Ascot, responded: "We spent much of yesterday trying to reach an agreement that would allow Sven to take in both engagements, thereby fulfilling his obligation to the FA and going some way to honouring his contract with Ascot and Blue Square.

"We will look at the possibility of a replacement for Sven from outside racing for the opening and closing ceremonies but it was always the plan for [the former jockey] Michael Roberts to carry the flag for the Rest of the World team during the competition anyway."

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