Eriksson reassures Bridge on squad role

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The Independent Online

Wayne Bridge has been assured by the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, that he remains a firm part of England's World Cup plans.

The Chelsea left-back is still working towards full fitness after suffering a double ankle fracture against Newcastle in February and is yet to feature for the Premiership champions this season.

Bridge has played for the reserves but with England short of proven cover at left-back Eriksson is anxious he returns to peak form as soon as possible. "He is still an important part of this England squad," the manager said. "I hope very much that Wayne gets back to where he was before he was injured and if he is fit he should be in the squad."

With Ashley Cole out injured Eriksson was set to start with the right-footed Jamie Carragher in last night's final World Cup qualifier against Poland. Liverpool's Stephen Warnock was in the squad and Kieran Richardson has been filling the role for Manchester United this season.

West Ham's Paul Konchesky and West Bromwich Albion's Paul Robinson have both been tipped for a call-up by their respective club managers. But Eriksson wants Bridge back for the World Cup and said: "We don't have another natural left-back in the squad.

"There is Kieran Richardson but if the World Cup was tomorrow I wouldn't play him there. Left midfield maybe, but not full-back."

Reclaiming his place as a first-team regular at Chelsea will be Bridge's immediate priority but given the wealth of talent at Stamford Bridge it is a tough situation with William Gallas and the £8m signing Asier Del Horno also vying for the role.

Nevertheless, Bridge's England selection is unlikely to depend on regular football at Chelsea.

His Chelsea club-mate Joe Cole remains Eriksson's first choice on the England left wing despite the fact he has not completed a full game for the Blues this season - although that may change now Damien Duff is set to be out for a month after undergoing knee surgery.

Shaun Wright-Phillips is having trouble dislodging Arjen Robben at Stamford Bridge but he is in the England squad as regular understudy to the captain David Beckham on the right and was set to start against Poland.

The Chelsea striker Carlton Cole also has his eye on first-team football after scoring for the England Under-21s in Tuesday night's 4-1 win over Poland at Hillsborough.

The Under-21 manager Peter Taylor believes Cole has the potential to force his way into Eriksson's World Cup squad. But Cole said: "Not at the moment because I need to get club games - that's my first aim.

"I'm not aiming for the World Cup because I'm a bit off schedule, I've not even started a game in the Premiership."

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