Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Must Learn from Spirit of Sir Alf; the England Coach Will Use Tonight's Friendly to Look at Some Alternatives for Germany, Says Michael Hart

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Must Learn from Spirit of Sir Alf; the England Coach Will Use Tonight's Friendly to Look at Some Alternatives for Germany, Says Michael Hart

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

SIR ALF RAMSEY always insisted at World Cup time that those not chosen to play were as important to England's success as those in his starting line-up.

As he remains the only England manager to win the World Cup his opinions on the subject are worth recalling as Sven-Goran Eriksson prepares for his last big international challenge before returning to club football.

The Swedish coach knows his preferred starting line-up and, injuries permitting, that is the team he plans to deploy when England begin their World Cup adventure in Germany in June.

He's not quite so sure, though, about the backup personnel.

That's why tonight's friendly against Uruguay at Anfield could prove to be so significant for players such as Darren Bent, Wayne Bridge, Michael Carrick, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ledley King.

Ramsey, England's managerial hero in 1966, believed that the players who sat on the sidelines, especially during a major tournament on foreign soil, were critical to the mood of the camp.

Disruptive, unhappy personalities could undermine team spirit when players were away from home for a long period of time.

It is precisely why England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward insisted before finalising his squad for the triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign in Australia: "I have to take players I can trust."

Eriksson and his players will be away from home for about six weeks, depending on their progress in the tournament.

The mood of those who know their chances of playing are slight will be important in maintaining the feel-good factor.

Eriksson said: "A key aspect of this job is the ability to create a good atmosphere in the squad.

"All the successful managers are good at that."

Tonight's match is the last before Eriksson names his World Cup party although he's hoping, along with some other influential national team coaches, to persuade FIFA to delay the 15 May deadline by a few days.

At the moment the deadline is two days after the FA Cup Final and the threat of injuries at that stage of the season is very real.

This squad is without three men who would be automatic choices - Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Owen.

Another absent duo - Sol Campbell and Jamie Carragher - would be in the squad.

Although worrying for Eriksson, those missing at least give the England-coach the chance to look at options for his final 23. The latest to muscle his way into contention is Charlton striker Darren Bent.

He's been on the bench twice before without playing but makes his debut alongside Wayne Rooney.

With 13 goals Bent is among the Premiership's top marksmen this season and, rather like Peter Crouch, offers Eriksson an attacking alternative. But will he go to Germany?

Who would have said in February, 1966 that an uncapped West Ham striker called Geoff Hurst would

play in the World Cup Final five months later - and score a hattrick? …

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