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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 23, 2007

Sven speaks to McClaren over Richards' role

Sven-Goran Eriksson has revealed he rang England boss Steve McClaren to confirm he would not harm Micah Richards' international hopes by playing the teenager in central defence for Manchester City this season.

Richards spent most of last term at right-back, the position where he made his England debut against Holland in November.

The Birmingham-born defender continues to occupy that role for his country but, with Sylvain Distin moving on to Portsmouth, Eriksson settled on Richards as a centre-half partner for Blues skipper Richard Dunne.

But, before he made the switch permanent, he called McClaren, his successor as national team boss, to receive assurances about Richards' future England prospects.

'I spoke to Steve because I didn't want Micah to lose his place in the national team,' said Eriksson.

'Steve was quite confident about that, so it doesn't matter where he plays because I asked Micah as well and he told me he couldn't care less.'

After his man-of-the-match display against Manchester United last week, Richards produced another memorable performance in the defeat to Germany.

And, whether it is his preferred position or not, the City academy graduate will provide stiff competition for Gary Neville once the Manchester United skipper returns from his current calf injury.

'I am not sure if it is a selection problem for Steve but if it is, it is a good one to have,' remarked Eriksson, who remains confident the defender will not get carried away by all the current adulation.

'He is a good boy, not only on the pitch but in the dressing room as well,' he added.

'It is in his character to laugh, which is good to see, so I don't think I need to tell him to keep his feet on the ground.'

Eriksson was going to name Richards on stand-by for his 2006 World Cup squad - even though at the time he had started just 11 Premier League games.

Injury scuppered those hopes but now the Swede is benefiting from the youngster's amazing strength and speed at club level.

Little wonder therefore, City are so keen for him to sign a four-year contract extension.

'I am not sure about Micah's contract but I know there are some talks taking place,' said Eriksson.

'This club will do everything possible to keep a player like that.

'It will be very bad to sell him and we have absolutely no intentions of doing so.'

Eriksson will need Richards on top form this weekend as City head to Arsenal looking to preserve their amazing 100% start to the season.

In order to achieve that, they will have to beat the Gunners on their own patch, something no City side has done in any competition since 1975.

Confidence is high though, especially after Eriksson's men emerged triumphant from a territorial battering by Manchester United last weekend.

'Arsenal away will be as tough as Manchester United at home,' reflected the Swede.

'In a seven-day period we are playing two of the best teams in the world, two teams who are known for playing extremely good football.

'They move the ball around so quickly, you really have to defend very well against them, which we did against United even if we were a bit lucky as well.'

Italian forward Rolando Bianchi is expected to replace Valeri Bojinov, who suffered ligament damage just six minutes into the derby win after falling awkwardly following a heavy challenge from Patrice Evra.

Uncertainty over Bojinov's absence is set to trigger another transfer market move from Eriksson, who has already spent £40million on eight new players since replacing Stuart Pearce last month.