Sven the Fox?
There’s a knowing sneer to the reports that Sven-Goran Eriksson is in talks with Leicester City for the manager’s job. There here is again. Brazenly touting himself like a football management prostitute. How has Sven come to be regarded as a joke? Does he really deserve such contempt?
Sure his England reign imploded, mired in sex scandals and a disappointing exit from the World Cup. The recent sojourn at Notts County was just plain bizarre. But I can only think that it’s familiarity which has bred the unjustified contempt which predominates. His record certainly doesn’t merit this view.
Under Sven England qualified for tournaments with relative ease. A record which the likes of Graham Taylor and Steve McLaren would be pleased to have. Qualification was invariably followed by a quarter final appearance. Apart from Sir Alf Ramsey there isn’t a manager who can lay claim to a similar tournament record. Sure Robson reached the semi’s in Italia ‘90 but his copy book was blotted by failure’s at Euro’s 84 and 88.
Sven’s club record is also incomparable to any English manager working today. League titles in three different countries and European silverware to go alongside that. However, all that was achieved outside the UK and our insular attitudes seem to preclude acknowledging those achievements.
It looked as if he might be on the way to rehabilitating his reputation in this country at Manchester City after leading them to their highest finish in years. However, he found himself the victim of the whims of the club’s then chairman who curtailed his reign.
We also seem to have fatally misunderstood Eriksson’s management style. Derided for being in hock to celebrity of the players he was supposed to be in charge of. We’ve overlooked the method to Eriksson’s approach.
Players rule and managers no longer wield the omnipotent power of old. As an international manager you have even less authority over players. We saw in the South Africa what happened when Capello tried to assert draconian authority over his players.
Eriksson understood that the dynamics of the relationship between manager and player in the modern game. You might find it distasteful, but he wanted to get close to the players and befriend them. That was his plan and by and large it worked.
I can’t pretend Eriksson is a candidate for sainthood. He clearly likes a pound note. And he is a serial flirt when comes to the possibility of a new, better paid, job. But is it really fair to hold that against the man? Is he any worse than most players?
Sven has an exemplary track record. It can therefore be no surprise that his name is so frequently linked with jobs. The fact he’s regarded with sniggering derision in this country says more about our expectations of a football manager than it does about Eriksson’s abilities.