Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Heat Is on Me Now Says England Boss

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Heat Is on Me Now Says England Boss

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Bradley

Sven-Goran Eriksson has admitted the onus to perform is on him, just as much as his players, ahead of England's Euro 2004 qualifier in Macedonia.

England need to secure a victory in the back-to-back qualifiers in Macedonia and against Liechtenstein at home if they are to leave themselves requiring a draw in their final group game in Turkey to qualify automatically.

Confidence in the squad is relatively high and they have arrived in Skopje with six consecutive victories behind them.

However, all the ingredients for a potential upset are still there, against the team that secured a 2-2 draw at Southampton's St Mary's stadium last October.

After all, the build-up has been marred by injuries with Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand all ruled out, while David Beckham has only confirmed his fitness on the eve of the game.

The ground will contain only a handful of England fans, with the Football Association having turned down their ticket allocation for security reasons, while even the pitch is bumpy and hard.

England will therefore rely not only on the inspiration of Beckham, as well as the scoring feats of Michael Owen, but on the wisdom and wiles of their experienced coach.

For this is exactly the kind of scenario in which Eriksson is expected to earn that estimated pounds 3 million-a-year salary.

"As long as I've been in football, every time your team loses or has a bad performance, you get criticised for it," he observed.

"Whether that's fair or unfair, it's life. If you think that, as a coach, you don't have to perform every day, then you should change your ideas.

"It's always a pity when you can't have all the players training and can't prepare as well as you want to, but you have to live with it and not complain too much as that's just life."

Without two of his leading midfielders, Eriksson must find a system which harnesses the talents of Frank Lampard and Owen Hargreaves, who both come back into the side.

"It's difficult to find another Paul Scholes, so we can't replace him, but we're not going to change too much," revealed the Swede. …

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