Fixture list fails to give Eriksson the breaks

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England's head coach Sven Goran Eriksson goes on holiday today frustrated at the refusal of his demands for a minimum of four weeks between next season's FA Cup final and the start of Euro 2004. The Football Association has confirmed the date of the final as 22 May, only three weeks before the opening game in Portugal on 12 June.

The fixture list for next season, due out on Thursday, will confirm the weekend of 15-16 May for the final Premiership games, a week later than last season. A Premier League spokesman said that the delayed finish was because Champions' League and Uefa Cup games had been split into separate weeks; even though there are fewer Champions' League matches under the new format, there will be more midweek dates overall.

As recently as last Wednesday, after England had improved their chances of qualifying for the finals by beating Slovakia at Middlesbrough, Eriksson emphasised his determination to have a month's preparation. He said that the freshness the team showed in the second half was because of the combination of "rest, holiday and work" they had enjoyed since club football had finished, adding: "At the end of the season, we are almost dead." The FA's post-mortem on the last World Cup conceded that England tired considerably as games wore on, failing to score a single goal after half-time.

If England make it to Portugal, their problems will be even worse should one of the four Premiership Champions' League entrants reach the final. That game takes place on 26 May, a mere 17 days before the European Championship.

Eriksson's captain David Beckham Beckham returned from the United States on Saturday newly honoured but with his future still unclear. He arrived at Heathrow on a flight from Los Angeles with his family at the end of a three-week trip designed to make the American public aware of his existence. They were taken away through a side entrance to a waiting car, dodging the media scrum in the arrivals hall.

Earlier in the day it had been confirmed that Beckham had been made an OBE in the birthday honours list, but all journalists managed to get out of him was: "I am truly honoured." After a three-day break it is down to more promotional work, starting on Wednesday in Japan and proceeding to Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Meanwhile, another noted winger may also be on the move. Arsenal's Robert Pires has told an Italian newspaper that he could see himself playing for Internazionale. "It would appeal to to me to play with Christian Vieri," he said. "He is one of the most powerful and brilliant attackers in the world. I know of the interest from Inter and playing for them appeals to me. They are a prestigious club and their president [Massimo Moratti] has a good reputation."