Eriksson to try new players by defying limit on substitutes

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The Independent Football

There will have been a chuckle down at The Valley when the England squad was announced on Saturday night. Out of the party, and thus probably out of Euro 2004, went Scott Parker. From Charlton and England, to Chelsea and ex-England in one £10m move.

Parker's international career is only on hold. He is too good a player to join Eriksson's one-cap blunders such as Michael Ricketts, Gavin McCann and Lee Bowyer. However, the dip in form which preceded his controversial transfer, and his switch at Stamford Bridge to a wide-right position, have counted against him at a bad time.

Parker's new club colleague Glen Johnson, who also made his international debut in England's last match against Denmark in November, has also been omitted from the 24-man squad to play Portugal on Wednesday.

The party clearly looks towards the summer which is why another Chelsea player, Joe Cole, survives despite rarely featuring at Stamford Bridge. Cole, like Jamie Carragher, recalled after an eight-month absence, has the virtue of versatility, always a bonus when a 22-man squad is being formulated.

Matthew Upson, of Birmingham, Liverpool's Danny Murphy, Southampton's James Beattie and Ian Walker, the Leicester City goalkeeper, have also been dropped. Upson, who played poorly against Denmark, may be reprieved as Sol Campbell dropped out last night with an inflamed groin.

This means Gareth Southgate is in line to win his first cap of the season alongside the campaign's only ever-present, John Terry. Gary Neville is also injured while Steven Gerrard is attending the birth of his first child.

There was disappointment too for Alan Thompson, of Celtic, Tottenham's Jermain Defoe, and Nigel Martyn, the Everton goalkeeper, who had all harboured hopes of a call-up. Martyn, like Walker, has missed out due to the unexpected recovery from injury of Chris Kirkland.

Defoe is omitted because Eriksson has honoured a promise to Alan Smith, the Leeds striker, who was controversially sent home from the last squad after the Football Association realised he was under police investigation.

No charges were pressed and Smith is thus recalled. As for Defoe, Eriksson said: "I don't think we're short of strikers but I'm quite sure if he goes on playing like he has he will have a chance before the finals." Time, though, is running out. England have only one more friendly, against Sweden next month, before Eriksson names his squad in May.

The England coach intends to start with his strongest line-up in Faro, which will probably feature David Beckham on the right rather than the centre, before making his usual plethora of substitutions. This is in defiance of Sepp Blatter, the president of world football's governing body, Fifa, who recently called for a maximum of five replacements in each friendly.

Eriksson said: "I hope Fifa will not say we can only use five substitutes because I think it is wrong. It is the only time we can make experiments, try new things and look at young and new players. Also, with players having so many fixtures the risk of injury is enormous if they play 90 minutes."

Prior to announcing the squad Eriksson again pledged his loyalty to England and stressed he will not be joining Chelsea. "I am amazed and surprised every time this matter comes up because I have a contract until 2006," he said. "I don't have an offer to go anywhere else, and that's the truth."

He should therefore come up against Azerbaijan's new manager, Carlos Alberto Torres, in the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. The captain of Brazil's 1970 World Cup winners, and scorer of the legendary fourth goal in the final, was yesterday named their new national coach.