Man City boss Eriksson feels for McClaren

Manchester City boss Sven Goran Eriksson has come out in defence of England manager Steve McClaren.

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The Swede admitted it was difficult to see McClaren, his former assistant, come in for criticism after defeat by Russia on Wednesday left England facing an uphill task to qualify for next summer's European Championship.

"It's not my business any more to speak or think about England," said Eriksson. "But of course I hope he keeps his job.

"I still think they have a chance of qualifying. It's important they do. This is one of the biggest football countries in the world. Everybody will be disappointed next summer if England aren't playing in Euro 2008.

"But expectations in England are through the roof, more so than in other countries. In one way it's dangerous, in another way it's good for football. A lot of fans and critics think that if you play certain teams it's going to be an easy game. It's not.

"I remember going to Albania with England. People thought it was easy, but it wasn't. You have to work and have a little bit of luck to win those games. I don't think England had that luck against Russia."

Eriksson has appeared a liberated figure this season, free from the shackles of the England job.

Privately he feels he was unfairly vilified for his "failure" to progress beyond the last eight of three successive major championships.

But Eriksson understands perhaps better than anybody the dangers of failing to qualify for summer tournaments.

"I wouldn't have had the England job as long as I did had I not taken them to the last World Cup," he said. "You can't sack 22 players. And you can't sack the owner or the chairman of a club, so who is sitting there? The manager. It's nothing new. You just have to live with it.

"It looked good for a while against Russia as England played very well. But it's disappointing. I'm disappointed, just like everyone. But there are hopes they will still qualify and I hope they will.

"Steve is my friend. I worked with him for five-and-a-half years, so I feel sorry for him. I haven't spoken to him yet. But I will."

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