Defoe fires off memo to Sven

Spectacular goal says 'I can play more than 45 minutes' and brings a smile to Eriksson's face at end of a fraught week
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The Independent Football

As the Swede who is trying to steer England to the 2006 World Cup finals watched the strike set Tottenham on their way to a 2-0 home win over Middlesbrough, he will have smiled but also noted that it came three minutes into the second half after Defoe had played a barren first 45 minutes. For England in Copenhagen, Defoe was replaced after a goalless first half.

With Michael Owen suspended, Defoe is set to start in the qualifying match against Wales on 3 September, and the game in Copenhagen was a chance for him to learn to play with Wayne Rooney. But Eriksson gave them only one half together. "Maybe," said Defoe's club manager, Martin Jol, "it was not bad for us that he played only 45 minutes for England."

Renewed speculation about Eriksson's relations with Faria Alam, the former FA secretary who will learn in two weeks' time the result of her claim for £30,000 compensation after resigning, served to deepen the gloom at the end of a difficult week, but the FA's chief executive, Brian Barwick, said that his meeting with Eriksson after the Denmark game was a routine established when he took office in January, not, as has been suggested, a demand for "showdown talks". Barwick said: "I expect him to be with us until the European Championship of 2008. He enjoys the job and we enjoy having him. He's a very successful manager whose competitive record compares favourably alongside any other previous England manager. There is a bigger picture, we're not naïve, but we're dealing with having Sven on board for some time."

If England are not the best team in Europe, some at least claim that the Premier League is the continent's best. The champions, Chelsea, and Arsenal can make a case for that view today when last season's runners-up visit Stamford Bridge, especially after Ruud van Nistelrooy showed his intention to spearhead a strong title challenge by Manchester United. He scored his second goal in two League games as United beat Aston Villa 1-0.

There was a sign of dissent in the Chelsea ranks when Ricardo Carvalho moaned in public about being left out of the defence for the opening match at Wigan, where Chelsea were run unexpectedly close by the promoted side. Manager Jose Mourinho fined his fellow Portuguese and John Terry played the captain's role by stressing that everyone in Chelsea's competitive squad understands the nature of life at the top. "If you play one bad game, you're not going to be dropped, but obviously if you have two or three bad ones, you'll be out of the side," Terry said. "Once you get the shirt it's down to you to play well and keep it." Eriksson's critics think that competitive spirit does not apply to the England squad.