Eriksson tells tour critics to 'stop moaning'

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The Independent Football

The lion in Sven Goran Eriksson finally roared last night when he told his perennial Premiership detractors Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger to stop complaining about England's summer tour to America and instead asked them to be grateful over his end-of-season scheduling.

The lion in Sven Goran Eriksson finally roared last night when he told his perennial Premiership detractors Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger to stop complaining about England's summer tour to America and instead asked them to be grateful over his end-of-season scheduling.

Eriksson rarely puts himself in such vehement opposition to the pair but he seized his opportunity at Old Trafford when, ahead of Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland, he defended the decision to play two matches in America at the end of May.

The tour, which will leave before the Champions' League final is played, has come under fire from Ferguson and Wenger, who have questioned what benefit the players will get from it.

However, Eriksson struck back at the criticism when he said he had personally ensured that England's players were not going to have to play in June and could look forward to at least a month's clear rest this summer. The England coach was even moved to say that the two Premiership managers should "say thank you to me".

"Before the fixture list was made for the qualification dates I told David Davies [the FA's executive director] and Tord Grip [coach] that I had only one request. I said I didn't care if we played the first games home or away [but] I don't want to play in June. The reason I did that is because I wanted the players to have a long rest."

The Swede was equally bullish about his request to have his squad together for four weeks before the World Cup finals next summer and he left the Football Association and Premier League no room for manoeuvre when he said that he had been given assurances. While he distanced himself from the wrangle between the two bodies in accommodating the break, Eriksson said that the last game of the season would definitely be on 13 or 14 May.

"It might sound stupid but [a four-week break] is gold," Eriksson said. "It's one of the most important things for an England team because unlike Spain or Germany we do not have a winter break at all during the season. It is absolutely vital for the players. That first week I propose doing absolutely nothing. That will help them physically.

"I have talked to a Swedish friend of mine who is a doctor at Uefa and he is absolutely sure about it. One of the reasons the team gets tired [at major tournaments] is because we go on and on with no break and then we have only three weeks to prepare for the competition."

The England coach is back down to just four strikers for Saturday's game after Andy Johnson was sent home with a foot injury, and David Beckham will have a scan on a back problem that is not likely to affect his chances of playing.

Eriksson also gave a ringing endorsement of Joe Cole's chances to fill the fourth midfield place left vacant by the injury to Shaun Wright-Phillips. "He is playing much more maturely now," Eriksson said. "He is not taking risks. He is a talent but more disciplined and more mature and that's what he was missing."

It would be Cole's first start in a competitive match for England and, although he has competition from Kieron Dyer, the compliments from Eriksson are likely to make him feel that his time has come. "In the past I have talked to [Cole] about where to do tricks," Eriksson said. "But I think it is more down to Jose Mourinho than me."

Eriksson was vague about how he would accommodate Dyer in the England midfield, although he did say that the Newcastle midfielder was "doing very well". Eriksson added: "He's playing outside right or as a striker but he's the kind of player where you ask which is his best position."

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD v England (Saturday): Carroll (Manchester United), Taylor (Birmingham City), Williams (MK Dons), Craigan (Motherwell), Murdock (Crewe), Hughes (Newcastle United), Clyde (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Baird (Southampton), Capaldi (Plymouth), McCartney (Sunderland), Johnson (Birmingham), Whitley (Sunderland), Doherty (Bristol City), Brunt (Sheffield Wednesday), Davis (Aston Villa), Gillespie (Leicester City), Mulryne (Norwich City), Jones (Crewe), Elliott (Hull), Smith (Preston), Kirk (Northampton), Healy (Leeds), Feeney (Stockport).

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