As the new season gets underway, England coach Sven Goran Eriksson is raring to
As the new season gets underway, England coach Sven Goran Eriksson is raring to go as he tries to steer his side through to next summer's European Championships...
And, ahead of tonight's important friendly against Croatia, TheFA.com brings you exclusive access to Sven's programme notes...
"It's been two months and a summer break since England's last match against Slovakia so I've particularly enjoyed working with the players again over the last couple of days - I've missed them!
"To have the squad together for three weeks and three wins at the end of last season was excellent for both for me and the players.
"I have no doubt that the experience gained by people like Frank Lampard and Matthew Upson, who both played in all three games, will prove to be very valuable as we continue to progress.
"This summer there have been a lot of headlines in the newspapers, some of which have unfortunately focused on myself. I take this opportunity to once again state my absolute commitment to this job. The only thing that is in my mind at the moment is getting England to Euro 2004. That is what matters.
"The summer is also about transfers and obviously our captain's move to Real Madrid created much interest. I have said before that it makes absolutely no difference to me who he plays for. I only wish him the very best of luck with his new club. He is a fine player.
"Meanwhile, players in the First Division should know they can still be picked for England even though they are not in the Premier League. I am looking at their performances and qualities, not the league they are playing in.
"Perhaps another England player will emerge for us during this new season. It's not something that you can ever predict but it is certainly something you hope for. Wayne Rooney is a good example from last year of how quickly a player can force his way into the picture. Who would have thought two years ago that he'd have played for the England Senior team at the age of 17?
"Onto tonight and I believe that Croatia are excellent opponents for us as we enter a vital few months. Technically they are very good side and may have a similar style of play to our next Euro 2004 opponents, Macedonia.
"The six points that are on offer in September's matches against Macedonia and Liechtenstein are absolutely crucial. Our first games against both sides have shown that we cannot afford to underestimate either team in any way. That is why it is so important that we prepare correctly. Tonight represents a big part of that preparation.
"You have a part to play this evening too. I hope that, together, we can create the same kind of positive, warm atmosphere that has made our last two home fixtures against Serbia and Montenegro and Slovakia so enjoyable. With the most important matches of our European qualification schedule now only weeks away, there will be more scrutiny of our behaviour than ever.
"Finally, I would like to say a word or two about Sir Bobby Robson and Ipswich Town. When I was a young, aspiring coach, I came over from Sweden to watch the great Ipswich Town team train under their famous manager, Bobby Robson. At the end of the session, I asked him if he could spare me five minutes to talk about football.
"As it was, we ended up talking in his office for two hours and he even offered me a seat for the Ipswich match the next day - in the dug-out! It is something I will never forget.
"Ipswich is a fine club and Sir Bobby is, truly, a Guest of Honour."
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