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Sven Goran Eriksson - 04/11/00


Winning is the only way to cover over the cracks
It is a sad indictment of English football that the lack of talent on the pitch is matched by a lack of talent off it.

The appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson has been criticised by many people, but what other options did the Football Association have?

There was only one man, in my view, with the right credentials, Terry Venables, and he was over-looked for not meeting the FA's so-called "criteria".

The whole sorry situation was underlined by the fact that of the two people approached to be caretaker, the first was Bobby Robson, a 67-year-old who first managed his country in 1982, and Peter Taylor, who was sacked as Under-21 coach by the FA 18 months ago.

If Venables was not going to be considered, the FA really had no alternative but to go abroad and they should, at least, be applauded for acting swiftly and decisively.

What puzzles me more is that apart from Tord Grip, who will be Eriksson's scout, the FA has already installed his coaching staff. Normally when a manager takes over he brings in his own back-up team. But Eriksson, it seems, is going to have to work with Taylor, Steve McClaren and Brian Kidd.

The plan to groom them as possible future England managers throws up many questions. Like what exactly are they all going to do when the England squad meets up? Presumably, Eriksson is going to do the bulk of the coaching and tactical work because that's why he has been brought in.

You can only have one voice giving out the orders otherwise the players become confused. Eriksson sounds a strong-minded man and will come in with his own ideas and thoughts. He will want things done his way. What if the others disagree?

The FA also talks about a five-year plan. But a month can be along time in football, let alone a year. As for Eriksson his record at club level looks good, but not overwhelmingly so. He worked in the Italian League for many years before securing his first title last season. Even then it was more a case of Juventus blowing it than Lazio winning.

There will be no honeymoon period for him. England haven't a great team at the moment, they are in the doldrums, and expectations are not that high.

He can only take them in one direction and he has got to do it fast. It's no use people suggesting we write-off the 2002 World Cup campaign because that's what he will be judged on - not over the full five years on his contract.

If England cannot take six points from their next two qualifiers, Finland at home and Albania away, then we should all forget it. Even with all the problems, I fully expect England to finish second in their group and earn a play-off place.

That Eriksson is a foreigner will not bother the players. It is vital he is in charge for the friendly against Spain in February to give them the chance to get to know his methods and thinking.

All supporters want is a winning team. If Eriksson can do that for England, no-one will care where he comes from.