FA to investigate racism and their travelling fans

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The Independent Football

The English Football Association will investigate sporadic outbursts of racial abuse of England players here last night, as well as the presence of more than 250 unofficial England fans in the stadium.

The FA had rejected their ticket allocation for security reasons, but the England players, led by captain David Beckham, still applauded the enclave of England supporters at the end of the match.

Beckham, whose inspirational performance was largely responsible for turning the game in England's favour, was angered by a series of challenges and it took the half-time interval for him to calm down before leading England's revival. "I think David did well. He is important with his delivery and his heart for the team," said Eriksson. "He knew the importance of the game and he was a little bit upset coming into the dressing-room but he was calm again after 30 seconds and then said, 'Come on boys, let's go out and do it'."

The FA will not be rushed into making immediate comments about the off-the-field incidents. The FA's head of media, Adrian Bevington, said: "There has been a lot to consider from the events surrounding tonight. Therefore we'll take our time over the next 48 hours to evaluate our position fully."

Disturbances were seen in the crowd, while the BBC reported that officials had noted racist abuse directed towards England striker Emile Heskey. Heskey, who has been the victim of racist abuse on England and Liverpool trips into eastern Europe before, entered the fray as a second-half substitute and was immediately barracked by home fans.

The FA had refused to take up their ticket allowance for the match, fearing crowd trouble and England's possible exclusion from Euro 2004. Uefa warned England they could be ejected from the tournament if there was any repeat of the violence which spoiled the win over Turkey in Sunderland. But a handful of England fans made the trip to Macedonia independently, prompting fears prior to the game of trouble, with local supporters renowned for firing guns in celebration of goals.

The ill-feeling spilled over on to the pitch late in the match with some of the Macedonian players taking their frustration out on England. At the end Artim Sakiri squared up to Beckham and had to be dragged away by team-mates while England players acknowledged the small band of fans who had defied the FA to travel.

Eriksson led the tributes to Wayne Rooney as the teenage striker became the youngest England player to score an international goal. "Congrat-ulations to Wayne. He took his goal very well," said Eriksson, who equalled a record himself in securing a seventh consecutive victory.

"I think he can go very far. It depends on him. The talent and quality is there. Of course, he has to learn a lot of things yet. But if things go as planned, I think he can be an extremely good footballer.

Eriksson came up trumps with his decision to bring on Heskey for Frank Lampard and move Rooney, in only his third England start, into the hole. "Wayne started very well, with some good touches, but by the end of the first-half, maybe we were missing a bit of weight and height up front. So we changed in the second-half. I asked Wayne, 'How many times have you played in the hole behind two strikers'? He said he had done that many times. So I said, 'Go out and do it again'.

"Emile was also important when he came on, while we kept our heads cool. This was a very big, important test for Turkey as the atmosphere will be more or less the same as it was here."

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