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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Sven the survivor limps on
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

England coach Sven=Goran Eriksson
Sven-Goran Eriksson may have had no case to answer after the Football Association's lengthy deliberations - but the real judgement days on the Swede may have only been postponed until September.

It is clear, despite the brief statement that kept Eriksson in his job, that figures within the FA would happily see him become part of England's football history.

This is, by no means, a complete victory for Eriksson.

He is not exactly a lame duck, but there can be no doubt he has sustained some serious wounds as a result of the farcical mess English football has found itself in.

He no longer has unanimous FA support. He knows he is no longer fireproof, despite some glowing testimonies to his credentials as a coach from David Davies on the steps of Soho Square.

But still Sven the survivor limps on, his journey eased by the more than adequate cushion of a 4m-a-year contract, awarded in blind panic by his paymasters as a bizarre reward for his gross disloyalty in talking to Chelsea behind England's back.

The man known as "the rubber wall" in Sweden - everything just bounces back off him - is still on his feet.

The FA contracted Eriksson in haste in March and must now repent at leisure knowing their coach has them shackled in golden handcuffs.

And of course England's players will celebrate, as players do when they know a coach will still pick them irrespective of form and fitness, an Eriksson trademark, particularly where David Beckham is concerned.

Eriksson stabbed Claudio Ranieri in the back by discussing a move to Chelsea and made the FA look fools

Eriksson's private life is rightly his own, but no-one can claim that his professional credibility has not been damaged in recent months - not as much as the FA's, but damaged nonetheless.

The FA allowed a personal matter to mushroom out of control when, as one respected observer so rightly put it, the response should have been "so what?"

But just in case Eriksson felt too smug about the verdict delivered, he should be warned that knives are out and will only be sharpened further should anything less than six points be produced from World Cup qualifiers in Poland and Austria in early September.

Eriksson is now something of a figure of ridicule off the pitch, and on it has been exposed as a coach of limited ability.

The irony is that if the FA had not ludicrously awarded him a new deal in exchange for betrayal, they could have made their judgements on football matters shortly after Euro 2004 and sent Eriksson packing.

But having a coach that is too expensive to sack, then botching a plot to discredit him - plus a lack of alternatives - left Eriksson holding all the aces after the final piece of dirty laundry had been aired.

Eriksson, however, is damaged goods and forces inside Soho Square have been revealed to be against him.

On purely professional grounds, Eriksson is a very lucky man still to be in his job.

He stabbed Claudio Ranieri in the back by discussing a move to Chelsea and made the FA look fools.

And got a new contract out of it.

Eriksson then presided over what was, for him, a desperately poor Euro 2004.

He was shown to be tactically too cautious, led by the nose by his players over formations against Switzerland, then was embarrassed by the bravery of Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari in the quarter-final.

Eriksson, however, is a survivor and once the FA's bungled plot was exposed, he was never going to lose this particular battle.

The real fight to keep his job may, however, only just be beginning.

Eriksson has, in many ways, lost the hearts and minds of England's football public and he cannot afford too many more slips before some of the criticism starts to stick to "Teflon Sven."

The final judgement may come in Poland and Austria.



VOTE RESULTS
Do you trust the FA to run English football properly?
Yes - this is just a storm in a teacup
12%
No - they are bungling bosses
60%
Don't care - as long as the England team are successful
28%
64107 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed


SEE ALSO
FA clears Eriksson
05 Aug 04  |  Internationals
Davies gives Eriksson hope
02 Aug 04  |  Internationals
Palios resigns from FA
02 Aug 04  |  Football
FA quiet over allegations
01 Aug 04  |  Football
Lampard backs Eriksson
31 Jul 04  |  Internationals
Eriksson toughs it out
30 Jul 04  |  Internationals
Judgment day for Eriksson
28 Jul 04  |  Internationals
Eriksson in the dock
27 Jul 04  |  Internationals
FA confirms England coach affair
25 Jul 04  |  UK News


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