Premier League backing for Pearce in England race

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Stuart Pearce has been championed as the next England manager by influential voices in the Premier League, who are growing disillusioned at the pace of the process to appoint Sven Goran Eriksson's successor.

As the Football Association meet with a list of more than 10 potential candidates, the key figures in the debate appear no closer to consensus on who should have the job.

Martin O'Neill remains the preferred choice of FA chief executive Brian Barwick, but the appointment of the former Celtic manager faces serious opposition from senior figures in the Premier League. They have expressed concerns about their perception of O'Neill as a manager suited to club rather than international football .

O'Neill, 54, still retains the support of Barwick which could yet be enough when the FA chief executive puts his case to the remaining two members of the committee charged with finding the new manager. However, the former television executive will have to push hard for his preferred choice. The appointment of Sir Trevor Brooking and David Dein to the recruitment process last month was designed to strengthen his hand.

Brooking, the FA's director of football development, backs Alan Curbishley as the successor to Eriksson. However, with the Charlton manager unlikely to figure as the first choice, Brooking could be persuaded to throw his weight behind O'Neill. Dein, the Arsenal vice-chairman, had originally backed Luiz Felipe Scolari, but with that possibility receding fast he, too, should be another O'Neill ally.

The support for Pearce comes from senior figures at the Premier League who believe that the Manchester City manager would thrive in a coaching set-up that would pair him with an older, more experienced hand - and the name of former England caretaker coach Peter Taylor has been mentioned. Those opposed to the appointment of O'Neill see Pearce as the alternative with the most potential to succeed.

Eriksson learned yesterday that his request to Fifa that the naming of World Cup finals squads should be delayed until June has been rejected. He will still be able to replace injured players - after they are examined by Fifa-approved doctors - up until the start of the competition. It will be a blow to the Swede who must now submit his 23-man squad on 15 May before the last two friendlies against Hungary and Jamaica.

Eriksson has already announced that in addition to the 23 players he names on 8 May he will pick three reserves who will be on standby in case of injuries. Fifa said they refused the delay in naming squads in order to give players time to recover.

Fifa also announced there would be a ban on players, managers and referees from betting on all World Cup matches - even if they are not directly involved in them.

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