Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Nation Awaits England's New Order

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Nation Awaits England's New Order

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

IN Kevin Keegan's long-range strategy for England's World Cup success, tonight's friendly against Spain at Villa Park was a key stage in the preparation for qualifying ties against Finland and Albania next month.

Keegan has gone, of course, but the relevance of Spain's visit has, if anything, been enhanced by the loss of five qualifying points from the opening two matches against Germany and Finland.

The Football Association controversially turned for salvation to the nation's first foreign coach and, in accepting the challenge, Sven-Goran Eriksson has put his coaching reputation on the line.

For him it is, initially at least, a journey into the unknown with a potential ambush at every corner. The task he faces would be difficult enough for a coach well versed in the players and politics of the English game. But for a foreigner with no Premiership background it is a challenge of enormous complexity.

He acknowledged as much when he said: "It would be very strange if I hadn't made some mistakes after so short a time."

After just two days with an unfamiliar group of players this amiable son of a Swedish truck driver leads England into a new era tonight. "I don't have a negative thought about it," he insisted.

Let's hope it stays that way. All his best players - David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Sol Campbell - were available to Keegan and his predecessor Glenn Hoddle. …

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