| Sol Campbell: Set to start as centre-back versus Turkey
Among the golfers, dog-walkers and selected fans allowed near England’s private training session deep in the sleepy Northumberland countryside on Monday was a man on a mission.
Unbeknown to the English, the man was from the Turkish Football Association and he was secretly filming Sven-Goran Eriksson putting his players through their paces.
The FA sounded relaxed last night when informed about the intruder. The significance of what intelligence he gathered remains to be seen: David Beckham and Kieron Dyer missed training, resting blisters and minor knocks.
Beckham will start Wednesday’s Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey while Dyer should also be involved at the Stadium of Light unless Eriksson decides to introduce Nicky Butt in a diamond formation or deploy Darius Vassell in a 4-3-3.
Otherwise England’s line-up is unlikely to surprise Turkey. Sol Campbell, his Achilles tendon soreness having eased, should replace Gareth Southgate at centre-back while Emile Heskey retains his place in attack alongside Michael Owen.
The detail-obsessed Turks clearly like their videos. Their seasoned centre-half, Bulent, who should man-mark Owen, possesses a three-hour, specially-made tape highlighting the way the Liverpool striker makes his runs.
Interestingly, given the criticism of Eriksson for being too detached, Owen and Campbell stressed that the coach has been assuming a more hands-on role to preparing the side.
“He takes a lot more of the training and voicing his own opinions,” said Campbell. “That’s good and we’re all responding.”
As for claims that Eriksson was too quiet and reserved in the dressing-room, Campbell responded: “You don’t always want someone who’s crash, bang, wallop all the time. Players respond to him more this way.
“We’re playing for England now. Every time we meet up we want to do well for ourselves, the manager and the country. Sven’s done a fantastic job.”
Owen concurred. “We worked on the shape we’re going to be using against Turkey,” he said. “He went round a few of us, including me, and spoke to us individually. He doesn’t just stand on the side of the pitch and observe. He works as well.”
Campbell’s return will concern the Turks, who fear his presence at any corners or free-kicks whipped into Recber Rustu’s box by David Beckham. Rustu, incidentally, becomes a free agent this summer and his performance will doubtless be of interest to Manchester United and Arsenal.