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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
FA paid price for Eriksson folly
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

FA chief executive Brian Barwick
Barwick has continued to support under-fire Eriksson

Brian Barwick's bat was not perfectly straight in defence of Sven-Goran Eriksson - but he mounted a spirited rearguard action against the charge that Swede's five-year reign as England coach amounted to little more than an expensive mistake.

Eriksson's critics, and they now easily outnumber his supporters, point angrily towards a reported 25m bill for the Swede leading England to three major tournament quarter-finals and ultimately failure.

Barwick's backing for Eriksson is a typical show of loyalty and understandable.

There is no mileage in the Football Association chief executive raking over the coals of England's farcical World Cup campaign when the message must now be of a bright new era under Steve McClaren.

But there is no argument that when the final bill was added up, it represented far better value for Eriksson than it did for the FA.

And the irony of it all was that the last big, fat contract was effectively a reward for Eriksson's betrayal in talking to Chelsea.

Eriksson's time as coach cannot be passed off as total failure, not when he rescued England's 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign from the wreckage of Kevin Keegan's reign, complete with that historic 5-1 victory in Germany.

And some of the criticism he received for the crime of not being English was too often allowed to colour judgements on his efforts.

But the odd glorious success, such as victory against Argentina in the World Cup in Sapporo, ended up being heavily outweighed by the stench of under-achievement and the suspicion that many other coaches could have done as much if not better.

And at about half the price.

It was not Eriksson's fault, or indeed Barwick's, that he was handed a hugely-lucrative salary for delivering average results from a supposedly "golden generation" of players.

This was an act of blind panic on the part of ex-chief executive Mark Palios, who clearly believed he had a genius on his hands rather than someone he could have comfortably been replaced without anyone seeing the join.

Sven-Goran Eriksson
Eriksson was often a motionless dug-out figure

To observe Eriksson on the training pitch was not to watch a tactical master at work - it was to see a mostly silent figure who left McClaren to do most of his talking for him.

And during matches the nation could see for itself that Eriksson was hardly a proactive coach, indeed he was found wanting when he needed to influence games, or at least influence them in England's favour.

England's players spoke well of Eriksson, but with international careers at stake they were highly unlikely to annouce that they regarded him as a waste of space and money.

Eriksson failed at crucial times.

He picked a desperately unfit David Beckham at the 2002 World Cup. He was thrown by Wayne Rooney's injury in the Euro 2004 quarter-final defeat against Portugal. And he presided over a 2006 World Cup campaign that was little short of a debacle.

Eriksson's squad selection and tactics were fatally flawed, and his whole demeanour smacked of a man either bursting with misplaced optimism, or a man de-mob happy at the prospect of leaving someone else to shovel up the muck after his circus had left town.

The normally ice-cold Swede suddenly became chatty, even chucking in the odd gag and becoming an almost happy-go-lucky character...well almost.

Throw in a series of front page stories that veered wildly from the lurid to the laughable, and it is easy to see why Eriksson will not take his place in England's Hall of Fame.

So while Barwick, in his position, is correct not to brand Eriksson an expensive mistake, it is a worthy description of a reign that will be remembered with little or no affection.

SEE ALSO
Barwick defends Eriksson's reign
29 Aug 06 |  Internationals


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