Sven leaves Woodgate in World Cup limbo

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson will not tolerate dissenting voices in his England squad at the World Cup in Japan and Korea this summer. England's Swedish coach is determined that team spirit will not be ruined by internal strife and made it clear he will guard against players becoming frustrated.

"One player can destroy everything," he said yesterday. "All teams must be together for up to seven weeks, training, eating and travelling, together. Mentally, it is very draining. So you must be very aware of individual players upsetting the balance.

"If, for example, one guy sits on the bench for three games in a row and then decides not to accept it, he can stir up a lot of trouble. He can wreck the spirit and ruin it for the rest of the team. Obviously, I need skilful players but I also need loyal ones willing to support and encourage the others when the going gets tough."

Gareth Southgate insists that there would be no dissent if Jonathan Woodgate was called back to the squad for a second cap. However, word is that he will not be rehabilitated after his conviction for affray and subsequent punichment of 100 hours of community service. It appears that the Football Association have instructed Eriksson not to call up the Leeds defender and that would mean there will definitely be no trip to the Far East for Woodgate next summer.

England internationals would have the opportunity of playing plenty of matches much closer to home if yet another attempt to resurrect the Home International championship succeeded. Jim Boyce, the president of the Irish Football Association, is pressing for the competition involving England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be revived as part of efforts to keep Britain's privileged position in football's world governing body, Fifa.

Boyce raised the question at a meeting with the four home nations in Belfast and it was agreed the four secretaries of the individual associations would look into the issue of bringing back the competition, which was last held in 1984.

Britain's four associations currently have the right to elect their own Fifa vice-president, a position Scotland's David Will has held since 1990. No other country has such a privilege and the situation has long been a source of envy to other Fifa members.

Surely an England-Scotland fixture with a trophy at stake would make a perfect match to launch the new Wembley if and when it is built. Then again...

Viewed as an anachronism elsewhere, the Home International event must seem a particularly peculiar idea to the host of foreign players now playing in Britain. It is just another of the differences in attitude and outlook that they have to adapt to when they arrive. The attitude of his team-mates was on Alain Goma's mind on the eve of his club Fulham's important Premiership match at home to Tottenham today. The Frenchman has criticised some of them for their lack of determination and strength, and also claimed they have not prepared properly for big games.

Fulham have reached the FA Cup semi-finals but they have endured a terrible run of form in the Premiership, losing five games on the trot to slump to within five points of the relegation zone. Their French manager, Jean Tigana, can take some comfort in the fact Spurs are on their own four-match losing streak but the manner in which his defence is shipping goals is causing him great concern, with 13 goals conceded and only five scored during their terrible run.

The centre-back Goma added to Tigana's troubles by claiming his team-mates are short on guts and have not properly prepared for their toughest matches of the season. "We need more determination," he said. "We've conceded lots of goals recently, so we must be stronger at the back but also keep scoring goals. Arsenal were better than us, but we didn't create any chances. Also, against Everton, we could have done better. We've been playing the best teams in the league – Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea – and we haven't been at our best. Not being 100 per cent fit and 100 per cent ready for those games meant we conceded lots of goals and lost badly.

"We had a meeting on Wednesday as Jean wanted to show us our mistakes and explain the way to avoid them. Now it's important to have a reaction to that as a group and to talk about how we can improve and get better results."

Goma ad his team-mates appreciate how urgent things have become. "The most important thing is to win some games as soon as possible so we avoid relegation, starting tomorrow." he said. "I'm confident, because having played in the First Division and now had a taste of the Premier League, no one wants to go back to the First Division."

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