Tc's Swede Memories

Former Upton Park goalscoring legend Tony Cottee has spoken exclusively to the newsletter just days before Sven-Goran Eriksson's England side take part in a friendly against possible World Cup 2002 opponents Sweden - the country against whom TC made his full England debut over 15 years ago.

In England's first match after their infamous 'Hand of God' defeat against Argentina in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, Bobby Robson awarded 21-year-old Tony a brief substitute appearance in a 1-0 defeat in Stockholm.

It is a moment he remembers with understandable pride. "I came on as a substitute for John Barnes," he recalls, "but didn't really have much of an influence in the short time I was on there.

"I think I strayed offside a couple of times, that was about it, but it wouldn't have mattered if I'd played 20 minutes or 20 seconds - I was just honoured to be out there wearing the shirt.

"Every player lucky enough to represent their country remembers their debut with pride and I am no different. We were wearing the red away shirt, like England had in the 1966 World Cup final, and it was just a great feeling to get out there and play for my country."

Looking forward to Saturday's clash at Old Trafford, TC admits that Eriksson may be inclined to experiment with one or two new faces but certainly won't fancy the embarrassment of an upset against his fellow countrymen.

"Sweden are a good side, well organised and very determined with a good team spirit, so Sven-Goran Eriksson will probably field his strongest side if winning is his main objective.

"However, I would like to see him experiment and give a few of the fringe players a chance, not just as late substitutes, but for 90 minutes.

"We are only in November, so there is still plenty of planning time, and this is an ideal chance to see if other players are up to the job.

"We all know what the likes of Beckham, Owen and Gerrard can do but, in the unlikely event that they are injured at the World Cup finals, we have to find out which players can stand in and rise to the occasion at the highest level in the game.

"I would like to see Kevin Phillips given a chance to prove his worth and there are one or two others who may come into the reckoning on Saturday."

One member of the squad who will be hopeful about his chances is Trevor Sinclair - desperate to repeat the feat of Cottee and win his first ever full cap against the Scandinavians.

Says Tony: "I would like to see Trevor out there and he may get a start on the right if Beckham plays in the centre. However, Liverpool's Danny Murphy may also be in contention and it will be interesting to see how Sven decides to play it.

"There are so many good players in the squad now and Trevor will know that it is vital he makes a positive impact during whatever time he is given."