Sven still has time for Smith

Last updated at 10:52 17 August 2005

Sven-Goran Eriksson has insisted Alan Smith's England career is not over as a result of his absence from the friendly in Denmark.

The England coach shouldered the blame for the controversy which followed Smith's decision to improve his match fitness by playing for Manchester United's reserves instead of joining up with England.

He insisted it would not necessarily cost the striker a place in future squads, although he will inevitably face major competition from Peter Crouch and Andrew Johnson, who were both injured this time around.

Eriksson said: "It's important to stress that I have nothing against Alan Smith, absolutely not. It doesn't mean he is out for the future.

"I think it's my fault that I didn't communicate what happened to more people. It was also a little bit my fault as I didn't check how many games he had played.

"So I take the blame and it's finished now. The door is not closed for Alan Smith, I promise you."

Smith will only truly learn his fate as the season unfolds, with the next England squad due to be named in less than a fortnight's time ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Northern Ireland.

It remains to be seen whether he can win back a regular spot for United by then, with Sir Alex Ferguson seemingly intent on experimenting with him as a midfielder in any case.

However, Smith was keen to set the record straight in a statement released last night by United, which stressed his desire to carry on playing for England.

"Prior to the initial squad announcement, United coaching staff spoke with Sven and the Football Association and it was agreed that Alan Smith would be left out of the squad so he could gain match fitness," it said.

"It was then cleared that he would play in the reserve game on Monday night. It is by no means due to Alan Smith's lack of desire to play for England."

There was still some confusion why Eriksson called up Smith as a replacement for the injured Johnson late on Saturday evening - only to reverse his decision and summon U21 striker Darren Bent instead.

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