Eriksson unruffled by Beckham troubles

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Two years ago the questions were about David Beckham's physical condition; yesterday they concerned his mental state. Sven Goran Eriksson, announcing his England squad for next month's European Championship finals in the same Café Royale ballroom he had commanded before the World Cup, again insisted his captain would produce when it mattered.

Two years ago the questions were about David Beckham's physical condition; yesterday they concerned his mental state. Sven Goran Eriksson, announcing his England squad for next month's European Championship finals in the same Café Royale ballroom he had commanded before the World Cup, again insisted his captain would produce when it mattered.

This was not strictly true in the World Cup. Beckham carried his metatarsal [foot] injury throughout the tournament and failed to make the impact his ability demanded. Eriksson will hope his current difficulties prove less debilitating.

The Real Madrid midfielder's weekend dismissal, for abusing a linesman, has increased concern over his frame of mind after the twin traumas of his well-publicised marital problems and Real Madrid's dramatic slump. However, he has shown considerable strength of character in the past and Eriksson is confident he will do so again.

"I am not worried about David," he said. "I am 100 per cent sure he will have a very good tournament, that he will behave on the pitch and off as he always does for us. He has had some difficult times and the sending-off was not good but I am sure he will be excellent."

Eriksson studiously avoided commenting on Beckham's personal life, instead referring to his professional difficulties. "Real have had a difficult time. It is difficult for all of their players because they are used to winning. In any club, when your objective is to win the Champions' League and the League and the domestic Cup, and suddenly you lose everything, it is difficult, especially for a team like Real Madrid. But I think being with England, among familiar faces, will relax him. That is important going into a big tournament."

There will be many familiar faces for Eriksson's 23-man squad had no surprises, the inclusion of outsiders Jamie Carragher and Ledley King having been predicted. They have been chosen because of the central defensive crisis which began with Rio Ferdinand's suspension and continued with Jonathan Woodgate, Gareth Southgate and Wes Brown suffering injury.

Brown is back but, despite two fine performances against Thierry Henry, Eriksson felt he had not returned to the standard he reached before his injury. Southgate, said Eriksson, was unlikely to be fit but has been placed on stand-by and been told to maintain his rehabilitation. This suggests there is a possibility he would make it. Given that both those called up are rookies at international level, and Carragher rarely plays centre-half, it may have been wiser to include him.

Five other players have been told to stay in touch and in training: Richard Wright, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Alan Smith and Jermain Defoe. Wright has not played first-team football since 13 September, but with Chris Kirkland and Robert Green injured, and his Everton teammate Nigel Martyn having declared himself unavailable, there were few alternatives.

Defoe will travel to Sardinia with the team next week and remain with them in Manchester for the friendlies with Japan and Iceland. This is both to give him experience and to cover for Darius Vassell, who has a hamstring injury.

The doubts about Carragher aside, there are few arguments with Eriksson's choice. He has given most candidates a chance, having called up 53 players since the World Cup and capped 44, though 11 of those played fewer than 90 minutes (none made the squad). Thirteen of this squad were in Japan. "I hope this is a stronger squad," Eriksson said. "A lot of the players are the same, but with two more years' experience."

The big absentee is Ferdinand, but the rest of Eriksson's first-choice XI are fit and available. With Beckham suspended from Real Madrid's final league match only the Manchester United quartet, who are involved in Saturday's FA Cup final against Millwall, are at risk of injury before the squad meet up on Sunday.

"We are lucky everyone is fit," Eriksson said. "Touch wood, nothing will happen on Saturday. With our big players fit I am sure the managers of France, Croatia and Switzerland [England's group opponents] and other countries will have a lot of respect for us. They should have."

ENGLAND'S SCHEDULE

23-29 May: Squad rest and recuperate in Sardinia with families.

31 May: Squad reassemble in Manchester.

1 June: ENGLAND v JAPAN (City of Manchester Stadium).

2 June: Deadline to confirm squad to Uefa.

5 June: ENGLAND v ICELAND (City of Manchester Stadium).

7 June: Squad fly to Portugal, check into hotel in Lisbon, their base for the tournament.

13 June: ENGLAND v FRANCE (Lisbon).

17 June: ENGLAND v SWITZERLAND (Coimbra).

21 June: ENGLAND v CROATIA (Lisbon).

24-27 June: Quarter-finals.

30 June: Semi-final.

1 July: Semi-final.

4 July: Final.

Comments