James Lawton: Eriksson's square-eyed admission

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The Independent Online

The Football Association is keen, and with good reason, to stress that if Sven Goran Eriksson felt under pressure to pick David Beckham for England's international in Spain - an outrageous decision however you looked at it - it was subliminal rather contractual.

The Football Association is keen, and with good reason, to stress that if Sven Goran Eriksson felt under pressure to pick David Beckham for England's international in Spain - an outrageous decision however you looked at it - it was subliminal rather contractual.

"Nowhere is it written," said an FA insider, "that the England coach doesn't have complete freedom of choice." Eriksson said that he felt an obligation to, among others, television, to select high-profile players rather than experiment with someone like the young Manchester City flier Shaun Wright-Phillips.

The coach has veered on to controversial ground. Many believe that Beckham's presence in both the World Cup of 2002 and the European Championship this year could not be justified in pure football terms. On both occasions he was demonstrably not properly fit, from injury in the first case and disputed training methods, or maybe a lack of application, in the second.

This is something the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, a career television man, needs to clear up immediately. The moment an England coach is influenced by the paymasters of TV, however much the greedy monster coughs up, is the time the game is over. It is then just another branch of the television industry along with all the other catch-penny junk.

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