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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 12:12 GMT
Alan Hansen's column

By Alan Hansen
Match of the Day pundit and BBC Sport columnist

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
Eriksson must get out of the limelight and mend fences with players and the nation

England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has been naive and stupid to stumble into a sting involving an undercover reporter and make yet another unscheduled appearance on the front pages instead of the back.

Now, thanks to this latest bizarre episode involving Eriksson, he is left with the task of mending fences with England's players and the nation in the build-up to the World Cup.

You would have thought that in the aftermath of being personally annihilated after poor performances against Wales and Northern Ireland Eriksson would have kept his head down and got on with the job, but here we are again.

I am certain Eriksson will not be England manager shortly after the last ball of the World Cup is kicked - but he has certainly made life difficult for himself in the countdown to Germany.

Any words from a manager, good, bad or indifferent, have an effect in a dressing room and unfortunately for Eriksson his private conversations have found a very wide audience.

If I was Michael Owen I would be unhappy about Eriksson reportedly telling relative strangers I was unhappy at my club. Indeed I am actually surprised that Michael would discuss something like this with him.

And the revelations also appear to shed light on the closeness of the Swede's relationship with captain David Beckham.

There has been criticism that Eriksson's quotes suggest an unhealthily close relationship with Beckham, criticism which I do not necessarily subscribe to.

The one proviso is that Beckham still has to be playing outstandingly well and be worth his place in the team, but I do not automatically say it is a bad thing for a manager to be close to his captain.

Throw in everything else that was said, and Eriksson has got it all to do to repair some of the damage done here.

In World Cup year, especially before a World Cup that England have a realistic chance of winning, you need to have unity and harmony.

You need to have the press, media, players and the nation all on your side.

Michael Owen equalled Gary Lineker's record of goals in competitive matches
If I was Owen I would be unhappy with Eriksson telling people I was unhappy at my club

Will what happened over the weekend affect the players at the World Cup?

Probably not, but if you are looking for complete harmony as the tournament closes in, this disrupts it.

Sadly, with the kick-off five months away, we have the media after Eriksson again and the nation and players will have question marks about him - not ideal to say the least.

I actually think Eriksson honestly believes all this stuff about talking to other people is part and parcel of football. He must do - he's been caught so many times.

Now, however, is the time for him to get out of the limelight, keep his head down, mend fences with his players and win England's next game against Uruguay - preferably by three or four goals and with a great performance.

If that is the case, by the time the World Cup comes around this will all be forgotten.

But if at the World Cup England only reach the quarter-final and he makes a poor substitution, Eriksson had better get his hard hat on because this stuff could be dragged up for the next four years.

So in the wake of another traumatic weekend, Eriksson not only has to convince everybody he is a great manager, he also has to convince people he can stay out of the headlines.

Eriksson has certainly added to the pressure on himself, but luckily all criticism and harsh words appear to just bounce off him.

My own view is that his track record of getting to major competitions is fantastic, but he still has to answer the question about whether he is a great manager.

In Euro 2004, managers were not just influencing games with substitutions but winning them - Eriksson fell short.

Substitutions aren't the whole picture, but they are certainly part of the picture and he came up short.

It has been an uncomfortable weekend, because the build up to a tournament is not just about players, it is about players and management and Eriksson has it all to do.

One quality Eriksson possesses that may serve him well in the months ahead is his apparent immunity to criticism or less-than-favourable headlines.

He needs that more than ever now.

Eriksson - victim or fair game?
16 Jan 06 |  Football


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