The England coach reveals how he selects his players for England duty...
The England coach tells us how he selects his players for England duty...
It's one of the ultimate conundrums of international management: on what criteria do you judge your players?
Do you keep faith with those that perform well for you on the international stage - irrespective of their form at club level - or do you call on the services of those firing on all cylinders for their clubs even though they may not be proven at the highest level?
These are the questions which have been spinning around Sven's mind since he accepted The FA's offer to step out of Serie A and into the international arena with England.
The infrequent regularity of international fixtures compared to league fixtures leaves little room for error, particularly in selection. So how has Sven resolved these issues in his own mind?
"It's a good question," says the England coach as he ponders his answer. "I think in every great team, even if it's a national team, you need to have a base. You can't change eleven players every time you come to pick a squad because then you will have no continuity at all.
"You must have a base and then maybe you can change two or three in a party of 22, depending on their form for their club."
With the inclusion of men like Beattie and Rooney in his last party, we can begin to get some kind of insight into the workings of Sven's mind.
As he has done with his first eleven, Sven identifies his platform and then builds around it. He finds his foundation and then leaves himself some room to experiment around it.
"Any squad needs a base and, if you talk about the base of the England team, you're talking about people like Beckham, Scholes and Gerrard," he explains.
"Even if they are not doing always exceptionally well for their clubs, I will pick them because I think those three for example are the base in our midfield."
In a sense, then, Sven is creating the England team as a separate entity, with its own mood, characters, and ever-present performers. Although the national team will always be inextricably linked to league football - the players are after all the same ones that we see week-in week-out in the Premier League - Sven's thoughts reveal that the selection of his key players relies as much on what he knows as what he sees. Class, as they say, is permanent.
In two and half weeks Sven will name his England squad for the most important couple of England games since the World Cup Finals last summer.
The double header against Liechtenstein (March 29) and Turkey (April 2) will go a long way to determining England's fate in our bid for automatic qualification for Euro 2004.
Messrs Beckham, Gerrard and Scholes will be central figures in more ways than one.
From Daniel Freedman