Who’ll be the next England manager?
So England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson will be on his way after the World Cup. But who could take over – and could any of them ever succeed in such a job, asks KEIRON PIM.
In the end, it wasn't that he was foreign; it wasn't that he lacked passion; and, like so many of his predecessors, it wasn't his team's performances on the pitch that did for Sven-Goran Eriksson.
It was the fact that, for all the spiel that greeted his appointment about him being an intelligent and refined character, he was dim enough to spill indiscretions to a stranger at the prospect of large amounts of money.
That combined with his infidelity in his personal life and secret meetings with Chelsea and Manchester United to give the Swede an air of untrustworthiness that is hard to shift.
Some might feel a little sorry for Eriksson given the way he was duped by the News of the World's 'fake sheikh' reporter. But you'd imagine that when you take a £3m-a-year salary, you accept with it the duty to behave with a certain dignity, and to act with a bit of nous.
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So who will take over after he walks off into the horizon in July clutching his hefty severance payment? More to the point, who would want to? There's no denying that the job is a poisoned chalice. The fate of the previous incumbents over the past 20 years tells a tale in itself:
Bobby Robson - after his England team were controversially beaten by Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal in 1986, he was hounded out by the press in 1990 despite guiding England to the World Cup semi-finals for only the second time in the team's history.
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Graham Taylor - derided by the Sun as a "turnip" after England lost to Sweden in Euro 92, he left in November 1993.
Terry Venables - he was forced out of the job in June 1996 because of his murky business dealings despite making the semi-finals of that year's European Championships.
Glenn Hoddle - he resigned in February 1999 after making dubious comments about how disabled people were paying the price for sins in a previous life.
Kevin Keegan - he stepped down in October 2000 after losing to Germany in a World Cup qualifier.
Now Eriksson's name can be added to that list, although exactly how he'll be remembered is unclear.
What is obvious is that the game needs someone straightforward, someone who'll make headlines for his team's performance on the pitch and not his own performance in bed.
Even Eriksson admitted yesterday that "I did get fed up with reading about my private life and I think people got fed up with reading about my private life" - although the obvious response to that one would be that the newspapers would have nothing to print if he managed to refrain from sleeping with women who weren't his girlfriend.
So it's little surprise that the leading contenders are three down-to-earth Englishmen who are renowned for calling a spade a spade.
Step forward Sam Allardyce, Steve McLaren and Alan Curbishley.
The only hitch? None of them has exactly set the world alight in terms of footballing success, although they are renowned for having taken clubs that often yo-yoed between the league's top two divisions and turned them into solidly reliable sides.
Then there's the currently unemployed Martin O'Neill - who stood down from a successful stint at Celtic to spend more time with his wife, who has cancer - and Stuart Pearce. The Manchester City boss again fits the bill in terms of honesty and passion, but he's only been a manager for five minutes and last week he described the notion of his replacing Eriksson as "pathetic".
Whoever replaces Eriksson after the World Cup will probably constitute an improvement to all the people who believe he should never have been given the post at all. When he got the job, all manner of football figures popped up to say that the England manager should always be English. Presumably they were also up in arms when the Zimbabwean-born Duncan Fletcher guided England's cricket team to victory in the Ashes in the summer . . .
Another criticism often levelled at Eriksson is his lack of emotion, although this shouldn't be a problem in itself. Let's face it, we've tried the ranting-and-raving-from-the-touchline approach (Graham 'Do I Not Like That' Taylor) and the ever-emotional (Kevin Keegan) with no success. Few people would have any qualms if Arsene Wenger gave up the day-to-day running of Arsenal to be the next England manager, but he is hardly known for displays of passion.
The other accusation thrown Eriksson's way is that his England team has produced little in the way of exciting football, especially given that it contains such talents as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole and David Beckham. Eriksson has often seemed tactically unresponsive - failing to react in the face of his team being overwhelmed by France in Euro 2004 - and has made some downright bizarre decisions, such as granting Crystal Palace striker Andrew Johnson his first cap, but playing him in right-midfield.
Then there's the suspicion that he is in thrall to his leading players. At times people have wondered whether Eriksson or Beckham decides which position the midfielder plays in.
All these frustrations have combined to the point where it was only going to take one more hint of scandal to push Eriksson over the edge. As ever, though, it is what you do on the pitch that will determine your reputation for posterity. And if Eriksson manages to guide the most talented crop of England players for 40 years into world champions, he'll leave in a blaze of glory rather than under the dark cloud that's currently following him around.