Newest Review: ... record was amazing and whilst our performance in big tournaments did leave much to be desired this was down to a mixture of injuries, poo... more
Cool Hand Sven (Gawd 'elp Us)
Sven Goran Eriksson
Member Name: marandina
Sven Goran Eriksson
Date: 01/03/06, updated on 01/03/06 (255 review reads)
When Kevin Keegan walked out on England following an ignominious defeat to Germany at Wembley in England’s last ever fixture at the old stadium, I for one was happy when a foreign coach was appointed. In that one job placement, years of xenophobia were finally eradicated as the FA realised that English managers were, in general, inept when it came to tactics at international level. And so with the sophisticated Swede in charge maybe, just maybe, England could finally exorcise that ghost of 1966 and win something at last.
Sven-Göran Eriksson joined England as National Team Coach in January 2001. Born in Torsby on 5 February 1948, his pedigree was impressive having won the Italian League and Cup double in 2000 with Lazio. Eriksson's first game in charge was the 3-0 victory against Spain at Villa Park in a friendly international on 28 February 2001. It was Nicky Barmby who scored that fateful first goal to supplement a relatively dour international career. With a further four wins to follow, most of the doubters were won over, many of who were Anglo-file, English media. In fact, Eriksson had managed the most successful start of any England coach.
Under Eriksson, England eventually qualified for the 2002 World Cup. With a momentous last second equaliser from David Beckham, England managed to top the group by the skin of their teeth and consign Germany to a play off to qualify themselves. Perhaps one of the iconic moments in recent England international memory was David Beckham's dramatic, curled free-kick into the top corner of the net to bring the score to 2-2 and send me on a drinking frenzy for several hours afterwards. Along the way, England had finally overcome the “old enemy” Germany in Munich with an incredible 5-1 win. Erikkson became a national saviour and we all kneeled at the cool Swede’s metaphorical alter. Perhaps an indication of what was to come, England qualified for the quarter-finals only to blow it against Brazil with a lifeless, second half display to flop out of the tournament. Owen’s first half goal had taken England fans into a temporary rapture in which we actually believed we could beat Brazil only for Ronaldinho to bring it all crashing down by chipping David Seaman from what seemed a mile away. When it really mattered, England failed again.
Euro 2004 qualification went without a hitch and, for a while, England looked a good bet in Portugal. However, just when we thought we were on the brink of something big, the outstanding player of the tournament – Wayne Rooney – broke his foot in an innocuous tackle and England’s perennial lack of a plan B returned to haunt them. In a game England could have won, they showed defensive naivety in dropping deeper and deeper after going 1-0 up eventually shipping an equaliser. In a dramatic penalty shoot out, England consolidated their reputation as woeful competitors when it comes to spot kicks with yet another defeat and elimination from another competition.
The 2006 World Cup Final campaign that followed had gone swimmingly until a 1-0 defeat in Belfast against an ordinary Northern Ireland side, with the majority of its players from the lower English leagues, humbling the mighty England. This may well have been the Swede's lowest point in his England career although qualification was eventually assured by victory over Austria at Old Trafford. England rounded off 2005 with an amazing 3-2 friendly win over Argentina. Micheal Owen was back on song; Sven was smiling again.
On Monday 23 January 2006 it was announced that Sven would be leaving his role as England Head Coach after the World Cup in Germany. So with Sven approaching his final competition as Head Coach/Manager of England, what’s to be made of his reign? Well, for such a quietly spoken man who is often accused of lacking passion, he has certainly been controversial off the pitch. Linked with several, high-profile women, Sven’s libido has been impressive. With his long-time girlfriend, Nancy Del'Olio, remaining loyal, the inauspicious Swede has had plenty of affairs detailed in the press including links to sexy ex-weather girl, Ulrika-ka-ka Jonsson and Faria Alam. With the latter proving the more tricky with Alam’s close involvement with FA matters, if ever there was proof positive that looks really aren’t that important then Sven has managed to underline that maxim!
Bizarrely, it’s Eriksson’s business dealings that have caused an even bigger stir in the media. Linked with Chelsea at one point, the Swede has defended his right to determine his own future by suggesting that he can and should talk to other prospective employers even whilst still employed as England Manager. That together with the recent newspaper sting suggesting that Eriksson may be planning to buy a Premiership club at some point in the future, it’s a fascinating argument based around employment law and the rights associated with personal contracts. Personally, I can’t see why Eriksson can’t look after his personal interests and, as far as I know, most individuals have this right to negotiate for work but eminent luminaries like Jimmy Greaves were vitriolic in their indignation that anyone could consider such a heinous thing whilst doing the most noble of jobs in sport. In that, perhaps we have the crux of the problem with being England manager. Everyone expects as does England (a la Nelson) but the manager is also expected to be whiter than white in every sense of the analogy and maybe we should remove this pedestal and label it “unrealistic” once and for all.
My own biggest criticism of Eriksson is his tactical failings. Clearly, he has been overly influenced by the bigger characters in the squad. Beckham has been kept in the team when, at times, he has clearly been off-form and needing to be dropped. When facing a difficult task, England have folded at the key moments like the Brazil game and, again, against Portugal. Sven has been remarkably poor at making tactical substitutions that have actually worked and the policy of playing virtually two different teams in friendlies has been plainly ludicrous.
I hope for all of our sakes that the current England team rise to the usual unrealistic expectations at the next world cup. Yes, we have a good squad and, yes, we have a world class, midfield line up. However, only one team can win and the tournament includes a strong Brazil, Argentina, not to mention a pumped-up host nation in Germany. Whatever happens, I’m sure Sven will walk out of it and into a new, high profile challenge in which he will get paid a lot of money. In the meantime, all I ask is a good show against Uruguay tonight!
Thanks for reading
Summary: Overview of SGE