Eriksson's World Cup plans hit by Butt injury

Diamonds may be among the hardest substances known to man but the footballing variety is a more fragile entity. Yesterday Sven Goran Eriksson's version, only recently reconstructed, was shattered anew.

Nicky Butt, who was to anchor Eriksson's midfield in the World Cup qualifying double-header against Austria, in Vienna on Saturday, and Poland, in Chorzow a week today, reported lame with a hamstring injury.

"He is almost certainly out for Saturday and is doubtful for Wednesday," said the England manager last night. Butt has returned to Newcastle for treatment and though Eriksson hoped he might be able to rejoin the squad in Poland that seems unlikely.

Butt's absence means Eriksson will revive the flat four which had mixed results in Portugal during the summer. "I will probably move Steven Gerrard back to central midfield," said Eriksson. "On the left I could play Joe Cole, Kieron Dyer or Wayne Bridge."

Given that they are away fixtures the latter is the most likely option even if Bridge is more accustomed to playing at left-back. The only other time Eriksson paired him with Ashley Cole on the left flank, in October 2002, England were held 2-2 by Macedonia, one of the worst results of his reign.

"Bridge played well but the result was not good," said Eriksson. An alternative is to move Beckham into the centre and play Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right. However, the training time for such an option is limited by an ankle injury to Wright-Phillips and Beckham having to play in a friendly for Real Madrid last night.

Beckham and Michael Owen were due to arrive by private plane in the early hours of this morning, but will not be able to take a full part in today's training. Much of tomorrow will be taken up travelling to Vienna and Friday's session will have to be a light one as it is the day before the match. Real's match will also hamper Eriksson's need to hone Owen's partnership with Alan Smith who is expected to understudy Wayne Rooney in the qualifiers. It is a role Smith may have to get used to for club as well as country.

Eriksson said he believes Smith has channelled his aggression in the right way. "It's his nature to be aggressive in football and that is good if you don't do it too much," he said. "He has been playing very well this season for us and Manchester United, so I'm not worried that he is too aggressive. Experience is something you must earn - he is a young player and maybe he did some stupid things in the past. But now he's older, he's playing for Manchester United and playing for England."

As he was speaking, before Rooney's transfer to Old Trafford was confirmed, the wily Eriksson refused to be drawn into commenting on the subject but he was prepared to discuss the teenager's future in more general terms.

"He is already world-class but I would expect him to get better as he is only 18," Eriksson said. "Any club manager offered the chance to sign Wayne Rooney would not say 'no'. I think he will always be a guy who keeps his feet on the ground. He is never nervous or worried about anything."

England are expected to secure maximum points from these matches against moderate opposition. Eriksson said that was unreasonable, that no qualifying matches are easy, but he expects to be criticised if they fail. Professing himself surprised that two Premiership managers have already been sacked this season he said: "It is getting like Italy, in England you are normally more patient. But if you do not get results you are under pressure. It is the same for any manager."

One man Eriksson does not expect to replace him is Sir Clive Woodward. It was claimed yesterday, somewhat improbably, that England's World Cup-winning rugby coach is quitting the oval code in attempt to repeat his success in football.

"Everything is possible but if he is one more who wants my job I won't losing any sleep over it," Eriksson said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot