FA seeks to avert row over Italy friendly


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The Independent Football

The Football Association has told Premier League clubs that England players selected for next Wednesday's friendly in Switzerland will be back at their clubs in time for training the following morning, in anticipation of the inevitable criticism at the game's timing.

Roy Hodgson's team will face Italy in Berne three days before the league season starts, in a friendly that has been scheduled by Fifa and is beyond the control of the English governing body.

There was no option to play at Wembley, which is an Olympic venue and is subject to certain International Olympic Committee rules. When the FA was organising this friendly, Wembley was restricted by a two-week grace period after the proposed end of the Olympics during which venues cannot be used for other purposes.

The game has been organised by Kentaro, the sports rights company who handle Italy's fixtures. The FA would only agree to playing in Berne on the condition that the city's airport stays open to handle the squad's flight back to London in the early hours of Thursday.

The FA is prepared for criticism from managers for taking players away at this time and Hodgson is expected to field a young team with some senior men rested in the interests of good relations with clubs. John Terry, currently on an FA charge of racial abuse, is available for selection if Hodgson chooses.

An FA spokesman said yesterday: "There are more than 40 games taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week and nearly all our group opponents [in qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals] will be playing friendly matches. The international date is set by Fifa. It will not be just English players who will be playing, the same goes for French, German and Dutch Premier League players."

There is no Under-21s game scheduled for next week, so the Team GB player Jack Butland is likely to be with the senior team.