Sunderland man holds England dream

Top Swedes: Seb Larsson, left, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Euro 2012

Top Swedes: Seb Larsson, left, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Euro 2012

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

WHENEVER an international fixture with the Faroe Islands crops up it is not unusual for key players to be rested, but Sunderland's Seb Larsson is desperate to play in Torshavn tomorrow night.

If Larsson earns his 48th cap for Sweden against one of European football's lesser nations tomorrow evening then he will set himself up perfectly for an emotional occasion.

Provided there are no injury scares against the Islanders, the 27-year-old is likely to stay in the team for the trip to Germany next Tuesday and that would tee him up for his 50th cap next month.

And to celebrate his half century in the yellow shirt and blue shorts, Larsson is eyeing up the visit of England to Stockholm when his country's new national stadium will open its doors for the first time on November 14.

"It would be really nice," admitted Larsson. "You want to get as many caps as you can and 50 is a landmark. It's apt if it is against England, where I've spent all of my career.

"England always has been a big rival for Sweden. Everyone knows we lost at the European Championships in the summer, and we'll want to put that right.

"Everyone back home follows English football, it's by far the biggest league that our supporters follow. So whenever England play against Sweden it's one of those big games for us. It's great to have that game to open a new stadium and it would be great to win my 50th cap in it."

First of all he has to concentrate on impressing against the Faroes and Germany, provided he is selected this week and keeps his place in the team for the trip to Berlin.

Larsson moved to England as a teenager to be part of the Arsenal academy, where he spent three years as a professional before moving to Birmingham City in 2007.

After Steve Bruce took him to Wearside as a free agent in the summer of last year, the winger has shown himself to be capable of playing both out wide and through the middle.

And following the arrival of Adam Johnson from Manchester City, Larsson is likely to be used as a central midfielder more often than not at Sunderland. He is likely to be in that role when Newcastle travel to the Stadium of Light on October 21.

He has no problems with that, in fact he enjoys playing inside. Larsson said: "When it comes to playing in a central position or out wide, I don't mind at all. I've moved inside for a few games this season. It's different when you start playing in midfield and then you get moved back, I don't like that. But anywhere in midfield I don't mind. It's been good fun and I've actually enjoyed playing in that central position."

Larsson and Johnson are just two of a number of Sunderland players O'Neill hopes will return from international duty unscathed this week, knowing how important the Wear-Tyne derby will be.

Both North-East rivals have had indifferent starts to the campaign, with Sunderland looking for only their second win of the season in the Premier League.

Only striker Steven Fletcher has found any sort of decent form in front of goal for Sunderland and he is hoping to play for Scotland for the first time in well over a year.

Fletcher, who had been omitted from previous squads after he sent a text message to the Scottish Football Association requesting not to be considered in February 2011, could face Wales tomorrow night.

And Scotland striker Kenny Miller insists that he is not worried about his place in the team following the £12m man's return to the fold.

Miller said: "Steven coming back in to the squad affects me, of course it does. It affects me in the sense there is now a young player - who plays at a high level, scoring goals regularly - who is part of our squad. It's competition, it's simple as that.

"I'm thrilled the situation has been sorted, we all are. I said before the last qualifiers the situation had to be resolved. As a group we will gladly have him play."

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