Upson eyes England limelight

MATTHEW Upson is refusing to write off his Euro 2004 chances.The Suffolk-born Birmingham City star still has his sights set on this summer's finals in Portugal, despite being excluded from Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for tonight's friendly there.

MATTHEW Upson is refusing to write off his Euro 2004 chances.

The Suffolk-born Birmingham City star still has his sights set on this summer's finals in Portugal, despite being excluded from Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for tonight's friendly there.

The former Ipswich youngster – he was in the same batch of young schoolboy hopefuls as Kieron Dyer – is keen to follow current Town star Darren Bent into the international spotlight.

Bent, who was 20 earlier this month, came off the bench last night to score an 88th minute winner for England in their under-21 friendly win over Holland at Hull's Kingston Communications Stadium.

He made it two goals in three games for his country when he met a left-wing cross from fellow substitute, Jonathan Stead of Blackburn, after the Dutch youngsters had twice cancelled out goals by newcomers Dean Ashton and David Bentley.

The Hull venue is a favourite with Bent, who was also on target there with a late winner as England beat Serbia & Montenegro in June last year. Bizarrely, it was the same player on the same ground at the same time – and the scoreline was also identical!

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Bent marked his first league start of 2004 by scoring once, and laying on two other goals, in Town's 3-1 weekend defeat of Bradford.

And he had only been on the field for six minutes when he lost his marker for a split second to net a typical striker's goal.

Bent was part of a new-look side assembled by boss David Platt and was the only squad member with a goal to his credit before last night.

Meanwhile, Upson has admitted he is still attempting to shake off an ankle injury that sidelined him for five weeks.

It means he has only the friendly international in Sweden on March 31 to impress Eriksson before the manager has to name his final squad for the summer tournament in Portugal.

But 24-year-old Upson, who has operated at left-back since his return to action, remains upbeat about his chances and believes his form for Birmingham will be the key factor in whether he is chosen or not.

The former Luton and Arsenal defender said: "I do not think my chances of making it to Euro 2004 have diminished.

"I have not played at centre-half since I have been back – and it is my form in that position for Birmingham that is going to be the key.

"I need to get back to the form I had in the early part of the season, but England is something that is out of my hands. I just need to get back to playing well for the club.

"I have not been fit so it (being left out against Portugal) is not something that surprised me because I have not really played for five weeks.

"I have just got to concentrate on getting back playing centre-half and shaking off this ankle injury.

"It was good last Wednesday against Everton but there was not enough recovery time for Saturday at Sunderland in the FA Cup and so I was a little bit off the pace."

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