Life after Euro 2004

Wright-Phillips and Defoe to lead new order

Eriksson switches the focus back to the pitch with fresh faces as the World Cup looms large

Tottenham's Jermain Defoe and Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips, two of the smallest players in the Premiership, can expect to be granted the chance to make a big impression in this season's World Cup qualifying campaign by playing in England's undersubscribed friendly against Ukraine at St James' Park on Wednesday.

In Defoe's case at least, it may even be more than half a chance; Sven Goran Eriksson will be forced by one of Fifa's better directives to use no more than six substitutes instead of his normal 10 or 11 and it would make sense to have a prolonged look at the Spurs striker, who was on standby as 24th man for Euro 2004 before being released after playing for seven minutes in the final warm-up match against Iceland in Manchester.

Three months earlier, he made his international debut as a replacement for Darius Vassell away to Sweden, impressing with the eye for goal and quickness of feet that characterise his game. Had Vassell not recovered from another injury later in the season, it could have been Defoe appearing as a sub in all four games in Portugal, perhaps inspiring something more than familiar anti-climax at the quarter-final stage.

Depending on Wayne Rooney's fitness (doubtful) and Emile Heskey's form for his new club Birmingham (to be confirmed) there will be at least one and possibly two strikers' positions vacant for the qualifying games away to Austria (4 September) and Poland (8 September).

Michael Owen will barely have settled into his new life with Real Madrid by next month, let alone Wednesday, although Eriksson believes a change in Spain could offer the benefits David Beckham initially seemed to enjoy last season.

"I think it's good because he might need another challenge," the England coach said. "To play for Real Madrid is a huge challenge and Michael needs big challenges. To have two English players is very good, they know each other well and Michael will have David there to help him settle. I can't think they are buying him to put him on the bench. He will have a lot of good footballers around him and Madrid dominate most games so maybe he will have even more crosses coming in there than at Liverpool. When you are at a club for a long time it's the same routine every day, the same stadium, nothing new. You're eating spaghetti every day and suddenly it's potatoes and you say 'It's good, this'." Or vice versa.

The games in Vienna and Katowice form the first of five double-headers over the next 15 months that will decide whether England qualify for the 2006 finals in Germany and whether Eriksson stays in a job. Despite having lost support in high places following Mark Palios's resignation and David Dein's demotion from FA vice-chairman, he was adamant yesterday that only football considerations would influence his decision about when to leave: "I will quit maybe if we don't qualify for the World Cup but for no other reasons. I will not quit because of intrusions into my private life. I feel that if we lose football games, then my position can be different. If you lose games then you are always weak."

As for the players and public: "I feel I have the players' support. If you don't then it's impossible, whether in a club job or England. I would be extremely surprised if one football player was interested in my private life."

Concern was expressed in some quarters in the middle of last week when only one third of the tickets for Wednesday's game had been sold. A combination of summer lethargy - abruptly ended by the return of the Premiership yesterday - and lack of marketing may have been the cause; a Newcastle season ticket-holder told a phone-in programme that he did not even know the game was taking place at St James' Park. On the other hand, a certain disenchantment was also expressed on the programme with Eriksson's mass substitutions in friendlies. If disappointment at England's performances in Portugal is reflected in the attendance, those members of the FA's executive board and council gunning for the Swede will have further ammunition.

A good sprinkling of bright young faces and local lads is sound policy in those circumstances. So with Paul Scholes turning down Eriksson's appeal to postpone his international retirement, Defoe, the uncapped Wright-Phillips and Alan Smith, now of Manchester United, should be joined by Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas, Kieron Dyer and Nicky Butt.

Butt's return would mean Frank Lampard moving further forward and Steven Gerrard filling that familiar gaping hole on the left, which Joe Cole is clearly not trusted to do. As Eriksson says, after the FA's summer of love: "It will be interesting to see the fans' reaction on Wednesday."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice