Owen calls for Eriksson backing

January 25, 2006

Michael Owen has appealed for Sven-Goran Eriksson to be shown total support between now and the end of England's World Cup campaign.

With Eriksson having this week declared his intention to stand down after this summer's finals in Germany, however England perform, Owen stressed now was the time to get behind the team and management.

He also stressed it would make little difference whether or not the Football Association decided to appoint an English coach as Eriksson's successor or replace the Swede with another foreigner.

But 25-year-old Owen is concerned that further adverse publicity concerning the England manager during the final six months of his tenure could have a disastrous impact on the team's hopes of returning from Germany as world champions.

'It shouldn't affect us, but it'll affect us if we don't stop talking about it, and everyone just gets behind the team and everyone else for the World Cup,' Owen told Sky Sports News.

'We don't want to use that as an excuse if we don't do well, so we'd prefer to just concentrate on the football side.'

Owen believes there could even be a certain advantage in the current situation, with England having known before previous major tournaments that their manager would be leaving.

'I think at Euro 96 when I think the country knew that Terry Venables was going to leave, and then again the World Cup in 1990 with Bobby Robson - on both occasions they got to the semi-finals,' he said. 'If that's anything to go by then hopefully we can go another step.'

Eriksson was caught out by the News of the World's `fake sheikh', who as well as sounding out the England manager out about a phantom bid to take over Aston Villa, also persuaded the Swede to divulge details of private conversations with leading members of the national team.

On Owen, Eriksson claimed the striker had told him he was 'not really' happy with Newcastle, and had only joined them from Real Madrid because of the money and incentives on offer.

Owen insisted he was not surprised to see such interest in Eriksson in the months leading up to the World Cup.

'We know we're playing for high stakes,' said Owen. 'There's plenty of press interest. These types of things happen in football.'

With the Football Association needing a new man in charge for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, which will begin early next season, Owen was adamant Eriksson's successor need not be English.

Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who will manage Australia in the World Cup finals, has had his odds slashed. His agent admitted Hiddink would welcome an approach from the FA.

'I think the best possible man for the job is always the case in any walk of life,' said Owen.

'If any manager goes you always look to get the next best man in. If it's English then great, if it's not then we've not had an English manager and we've been quite successful.'

Owen stressed the England squad must be given all the necessary opportunity to prepare for the World Cup, now the manager's future has been resolved.

'It is important for everyone to focus on the World Cup and not think about what is going to happen afterwards. There is obviously going to be loads of speculation, new managers and everything else - but the less of that the better for our chances at the World Cup.

'We need to concentrate, and I am sure the powers that be will appoint the right man.'