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Sunday, 23 June, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
'Major reception' for England
Captain David Beckham waits in the coach ready to be taken from Heathrow
Beckham waits to be taken from Heathrow
The Football Association is hoping to hold a public reception for fans to honour the England team's World Cup efforts.

The players made a low-key arrival at London's Heathrow Airport late on Saturday night after a 12-hour flight from Japan.

After taking security advice, the squad disembarked at a special hangar and boarded waiting coaches, disappointing some supporters who waited in the terminal.

Fans crowding round team coach
Thousands tried to get a glimpse of the team

FA executive director David Davies denied they had deliberately snubbed fans and told the BBC there were plans for a formal welcome home for the team.

He added that it had not decided when or where the reception might take place.

About 7,000 fans lined the airport's perimeter roads and cheered as the squad departed in coaches.

But about 150 inside the airport were disappointed they were unable to show their support more personally to the team, which lost 2-1 to Brazil in the quarter-final on Friday.

One said: "I've got an eight-year-old and a seven-year-old, we've come up from Portsmouth and they're absolutely gutted.

"It's disappointing for the country."

'Snub nonsense'

The Ireland team were greeted by more than 100,000 fans at a welcome home party in Dublin's Phoenix Park on Tuesday.

And Mr Davies, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, said: "The facts are that we were planning indeed a major reception for the team whether or not we won the semi-final or the final or whatever."
England's Michael Owen on the team bus
Owen later revealed he wasn't fully fit for Brazil

He dismissed reports they had snubbed fans as "complete nonsense" and added: "You can't ignore security advice. It's not a cock-up.

"Let me say this very clearly - we will look very seriously at a proper reception for the team if that is the right thing."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has also promised to receive the team at Downing Street.

A spokesman told BBC News Online: "We will be in discussion with the FA about this to find out a convenient time in the near future."

The team, staff and families touched down just after 2300 BST on Saturday, on a chartered British Airways Boeing 777 jet, following its 5,500 mile journey from Osaka.
Phoenix Park, Dublin
There was a heroes' welcome in Dublin

But as they walked across the runway to the five coaches, they were greeted by only about 80 airport ground staff and journalists.

As the coaches emerged from the Heathrow complex, the crowds swarmed forward, almost forcing the vehicles to stop, while the players smiled and waved through the windows.

Goalkeeper David Seaman, who misjudged Brazil's winning goal, was given a good reception by the crowd as he sat in the coach alongside wife Debbie, 40, daughter Georgina, two, and seven-month-old son Robbie.

The party then set off towards the nearby Meridien Excelsior Hotel from where the players and Football Association (FA) staff went their separate ways.

Seaman was among the last to leave and his people carrier was mobbed by cheering fans.

Eriksson was also driven from the hotel to screams and applause.

David Seaman with his family at Heathrow
David Seaman got a good reception

Jen Egan, 23, from Shepperton, Middlesex, said: "It was fantastic, it was surreal, I was giggling like a schoolgirl as the cars went past.

"We love England, all the players, and we just had to be here."

Later, Beckham's father Ted revealed that the atmosphere on the flight home was buoyant.

"The mood coming back was superb," he said.

FA head of communications Paul Newman added: "The mood was not one of disappointment. It was very relaxed and the players are pleased to be with their families and back home again."


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 ON THIS STORY
BBC News' Jake Lynch
"A low-key homecoming for a disappointed squad"
The FA's David Davies
"We've taken a step in the right direction"
The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Discussions will be held"
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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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