- Manager of Expectations
I had half-prepared a very poignant and witty piece about my first Father’s Day, and my young daughter’s efforts to scupper my plans to watch all three games from within an espresso-and-lemon-cake-filled euphoric haze. I abandoned this when France sent Anelka home and the Director of Football resigned inspiring a gloating, “what goes around comes around” piece and how Laurent Blanc will reinvent the French team from the embers of the Domenech ruins—but we’ll leave that till tomorrow when they head into their final game. Instead, sports fans, after Cote D’Ivoire’s apathetic performance against, it must be said, an unusually ordinary Brazil team, we must devote today’s column to one man. The mysterious case of Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Eriksson, who’s last job was as manager of a Mexican team that was completely dysfunctional in 2009, a year in which they won only 1 in 7 competitive outings, and which, since his departure, has looked one of the unlikely favorites for the 2010 tournament. The Mexican fans were so happy to see him sacked that they held a 30,000 strong victory rally on the day he was deposed. He was, prior to thatm laughed out of Manchester City where, with untold wealth at his disposal, he nearly managed to get them relegated. He is now putting himself in the frame for the Liverpool manager’s job after this World Cup. All this for a man who also took the most talented bunch of English players since 1970 and turned them into headless chickens in Germany 2006.
Sven-Goran Eriksson’s playing career was cut short by injury in 1975 and his managerial career began two years later at Degerfors in his native Sweden. Before moving into international management with England in 2001 he’d managed club teams in Portugal, Sweden and Italy, all of them “big” clubs (Lazio, Roma, Benfica, Sampdoria, Goteborg, Fiorentina) and was relatively successful in short stints, winning domestic cups and UEFA cups and, with Lazio, a major title by winning the Serie A. Since then he has achieved, umm, nothing!
John Giles, RTE’s excellent TV analyst calls him a “spoofer,” and one can’t help agree with John’s assessment. Here is a man who was set up by an English tabloid newspaper, approached by the now infamous ‘fake sheik’ and taped accepting an offer to manage in Dubai. So what did the English FA do when the story broke? Offered him more money of course. The footage of the RTE panel on the aftermath of the France vs. Mexico game is required viewing for all real football fans, as they express their complete bewilderment at how Sven has kept his career afloat after the litany of fiascos that accompanied his England career. Affairs with his secretary, the WAG debacle in Baden Baden, the Ecuador game in Germany… the list goes on.
There are two excellent clips from the RTE boys that highlight the point, and both are highly entertaining. The first, as I said, from last week’s France vs. Mexico game. From left to right are John Giles (former Manchester United, Leeds and Ireland manager), Graeme Souness (Liverpool and Scotland and ex manager of Liverpool and Blackburn), Eamon Dunphy (ex Manchester United and Ireland and author of the acclaimed It’s Only a Game).
To really get a handle on how these guys have followed Eriksson and his career you also need to refer back to what was probably the most fawning TV interview ever given by a BBC journalist and ex-player to Eriksson in the aftermath of the disastrous Ecuador game in 2006. It’s also highly entertaining fare. Here’s the same panel in a bit more agitated mood with Eriksson’s attitude:
So how does he do it? How does he command big money contracts to manage high profile clubs/countries? The stupid Irish have him tapped since 2006; every club or country even thinking about appointing the Swede should watch the clips above. Ivory Coast are probably the most talented team in Africa. They have Champions League winners in Yaya Toure, England’s top goal scorer in Didier Drogba, and yet North Korea put up a better performance against the Brazilians. Why? The Sven effect. He has consistently turned above average teams into disasters. The Mexican case proves this beyond all doubt. If he goes to Liverpool in the close season it will be the same story again. Lengthy interviews from a Swedish man who looks like he is embroiled in the science of football. From the rimless glasses and the professorial demeanor he looks the part. He won the Italian league 300 years ago. And he’s Swedish, don’t they make Volvos? Reliable, consistent, that’s what we want. No No No. He’s a total spoofer, isn’t that right John?