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Football: Whelan's challenge to Sven; THE 2006 WORLD - THE ROAD TO BERLIN.

OUTSPOKEN Wigan chairman Dave Whelan yesterday issued an urgent plea to Sven-Goran Eriksson: "Make me eat my words."

Whelan readily concedes to being one of the Swede's severest critics, but is ready to backtrack if England win the World Cup.

Whelan has ripped into Eriksson for persisting with David Beckham as captain and for putting Theo Walcott in an "embarrassing" position.

"We have been poor," said Whelan. "Everybody in the land knows we haven't played to our potential with the quality we have.

"But he has to go for it now, play 4-3-3 and let England play the way England can because I think we will win if he plays the right team.

"He has to have the right team selection and the guts to drop David Beckham, but he hasn't.

"He believes in him, but 'Becks' is a luxury. He doesn't tackle and is never involved other than being a dead-ball specialist, and he is not a captain.

"Why he remains captain, and not John Terry, is beyond me. I always look at a player's form and nobody, whatever their name or reputation, is too big to lose their place.

"And why he has taken this young kid (Walcott), I don't know. He has not even played in the Premier League.

"To make a mistake in taking this young boy is unforgivable. It's an insult and I'm sure it's embarrassing for the lad because basically he is the ball boy. He is never going to get on.

"That's not managing a team properly.

"Having said all that, I want Mr Eriksson to make me and the rest of the critics eat our words.

"I'd love to say to him 'well done' because for England to win would be fantastic for the nation."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 30, 2006
Words:293
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