Eriksson insists on 'no favours' for Beckham

The England manager has been widely criticised following England's humiliating 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat by Northern Ireland in Belfast last week. It has been claimed Eriksson was urged to change his tactics to accommodate Beckham in the centre, even though the plan appeared to reduce the effectiveness of other players.

"If anyone doubts I am in charge of this team they are badly wrong," Eriksson said. "My relationship with David Beckham is very good. That is important - he is the captain of the team. But if people think he has other favours they are absolutely wrong. I am never out eating dinner with David Beckham. It is a professional relationship that is very good but if David Beckham plays very badly he will be treated the same way as other players."

Eriksson's powers of motivation have also been questioned but the Swede insists he has no problem getting his message across. "I am sorry to those who say I am too kind - that is my character. That is the way I have been managing for the last 25 years. That is the way I managed when we beat Germany and Argentina and I can't change that now, it is too late."

To add to Eriksson's problems there were also reports over the weekend that Wayne Rooney and Beckham squared up to each other in the dressing-room at half-time during Wednesday's match.

England will still qualify for the World Cup if they beat Austria and Poland in their two remaining qualifiers next month. Eriksson remains convinced he has the players at his disposal to achieve that goal - and then set targets higher. "Of course when you talk about David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, those players are extremely important for us," Eriksson said.

"They are winning players and if you want to take one of those players from the team you must be sure you have someone who can do the job better. It is not easy to find that. We lost our first qualifier in four years - that is bad and has made life difficult for us but we have two games against Austria and Poland and I can't see any reason why we can't win both of those.

"I would say the big target was always during the last two years to qualify for the World Cup. Once we qualify we go for a higher target."

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