Eriksson warns managers to be positive with referees

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson believes managers have a responsibility to maintain a positive relationship with referees. With Anders Frisk retiring this week after receiving death threats, the England coach insists disagreements are inevitable but managers can help the situation.

Sven Goran Eriksson believes managers have a responsibility to maintain a positive relationship with referees. With Anders Frisk retiring this week after receiving death threats, the England coach insists disagreements are inevitable but managers can help the situation.

"I think when you're a manager you have a responsibility, that's one field that's very important," he said. "It's not necessary to have the same ideas as the referees. I had that in Portugal [during the European Championship] but after 90 minutes you can talk to the referee, and then it's finished."

Eriksson received criticism after his side's lacklustre performance last time out against the Netherlands but he has learnt to deal with it. "You are always criticised, more or less, so as long as it is football then it is fair," he added. "I learned a lot from that game, when we played Holland, who could win the World Cup, so it was difficult and I think we did OK."

Eriksson also admitted his striker Michael Owen could become frustrated if he does not force his way into the Real Madrid starting line-up.

"He always plays very well for us and it means he will not be tired," Eriksson said. "Of course if it goes on for a season or the season after it is something he would worry about, more so than me. I want to see him play every game but I am not manager of Real Madrid."

Eriksson's England face Northern Ireland at Old Trafford on 26 March as they resume their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign and the coach defended the Football Association's decision to change the format of FA Cup replays next season to give the national side more time to prepare for the tournament.

"I'm very pleased about it. I said thank you to all who supported this idea," he said. "It's very good and we will have the same preparation as other teams in the world, that is perfect. It gives us one more week than we had in the last.

"In my position I have to fight for what is right for my team. All competitions are important, for me the World Cup is the most important for this country."

Eriksson also refused to confirm if the Crystal Palace striker Andrew Johnson or the Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing would be included in the squad. He admitted, though, he was impressed with Joe Cole's recent good form in the Chelsea midfield. "He's improving match after match, he's been playing a lot recently and shows much more discipline, making the right decisions. So, of course, he is in my mind."

Eriksson also backed the Arsenal full-back Ashley Cole to play an important role against Lawrie Sanchez's side, despite the on-going saga about an alleged illegal approach from Chelsea.

Although England will start as favourites, Eriksson refuses to take victory against Northern Ireland for granted.

"I saw them recently and they are working very hard, like a team," he said. "They will press us and not give us time to play. They have some very experienced players, playing in the Premier League. So I do not expect an easy game."

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