Sven-Goran Eriksson appears to have decided
to go down swinging. The controversial Swede, already confirmed as “no longer
required” as soon as the looming World Cup is over, has chosen his provisional
23-man English Cup squad and it would be fair to say he pulled some surprises.

He’s picked the badly-injured Wayne Rooney
and also Michael Owen, who has had limited match time as he recovers from
injury. He’s also left out several hardened, reliable Premier League performers
– most notably Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe, Chelsea’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Charlton’s Darren Bent.

But those who are in the squad are the
biggest eyebrow raisers. Let’s start with that giant of the game in the UK, Theo
Walcott. Never heard of him? That’s probably because he’s a 17-year-old who has
yet to appear for Arsenal on a Premier League pitch. He’s only played 23
professional matches in total, although there’s lots of “heat” about his
prospects, recently traded from Southhampton for 12 million pounds.

At least his selection was a long,
well-considered decision. “I
decided to take Theo this morning,” Eriksson said. “I am taking 23
players so I thought why not gamble with one of them? I know it is a gamble but
he is a big talent. Pace in football is worth a lot. I’m excited by him, I
can’t wait to work with him. Maybe it’s not logic, but sometimes things work
out very well.”

Sven told reporters:
“For me it’s a good squad, an interesting squad. There are some new players,
some young players and it is an attacking squad with a lot of pace which is
necessary in a World Cup.”

The reaction has been a mixture of cautious
hope and outright dismay. The Sun‘s fan forum – never a place to mince words – has been straight to the point with comments like these:

Sven has cost England the World Cup before it started by this
strange selection. How could he select Walcott? – Ghassan Zeinoun

What on earth is Sven doing picking Walcott? What a sickener for those
players who have played all season, all that hard work for nothing. Sven can’t
go quickly enough in my opinion. – Simon
Crozier, Bristol

Peter Fray

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