Beckham tells FA to stop undermining England players' morale

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The Independent Football

The England football squad led by captain David Beckham launched a blistering attack on the Football Association yesterday, accusing the body of mishandling team selection, undermining morale and caving in to "outside pressures".

A strongly worded statement read by Beckham on behalf of the team called for more clarity and consistency from the FA over selection.

The England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, said he agreed with the team.

The statement was a response to the FA's decision to withdraw the Leeds striker Alan Smith from the squad to play Denmark today after his arrest in connection with a bottle-throwing incident.

England players are also still smarting after the defender Rio Ferdinand was left out of the side for the important European championship qualifying match against Turkey last month because he had failed to take a drugs test.

They argue their teammates have been punished before being found guilty.

The FA was further embarrassed after dithering over Smith's replacement. The Southampton striker James Beattie is 14 months through a 30-month ban for drink-driving but was allowed to stay in the squad because his case had been dealt with in the courts.

It was also revealed that Manchester United's Nicky Butt had played three times for England this summer despite being under investigation by police after false assault allegations - because the FA was unaware he had been arrested. The charges against Butt were dropped last month.

Reading from the statement, Beckham said: "We are extremely disappointed at the way the FA have handled ... the treatment of team-mates Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith, which has undermined the position of the manager and could have seriously affected morale and team spirit ...

"We have a concern that the FA are reacting to outside pressures which impacts unfairly on the manager and the players. In both cases the players have been assumed guilty before the due process has been completed."

The Football Association in response promised there would be no repeat of the chaotic build-up to today's game against Denmark.