Thursday, January 26, 2006

Never Trust A Fake Sheikh

Living close to a place where “the temperature sometimes zooms up to zero” and “the future…is in the dirt,” I can be forgiven for missing the news that the greatest national football manager in English history has been forced out of his position by a tabloid entrapment campaign.

In true Grewal fashion, Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World has spent the last week portioning out revelations from conversations an undercover reporter staged with Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Dressed as a ‘fake sheikh,’ the reporter lured Eriksson to Bahrain to discuss a consulting contract. When the conversation turned to the possibility that the sheikh might buy Aston Villa, Sven is reputed to have offered to leave his contract with the national side after the 2006 World Cup, in return for a 3-year deal paying a mere £15 million after tax. Fifteen million seems barely sufficient to make a man with options live in Birmingham, but the News offers video proof.

The Eriksson headlines share centre stage with classic tabloid fare: MP Quits Over Rent Boy (is there an English MP who hasn’t been associated with a rent boy?), and tales of how the 17 year-old Angel Paris-Jordan got a sex change paid for by the National Health.

One imagines that both rent boy and transsexual took notice of the News’s claim that “we are the biggest paper in the world, and we pay the biggest” for exclusive stories.

But back to the sportsmatter. You have your choice of indignities. On the one hand, there is Sven’s implication that at least three FA managers take kick-backs as part of the transfer payment scheme. On the other hand, there is the paper’s insistent use of the word bungs to describe the payments. I guess the word tip was taken.

On the purely entertaining side, Sven also said that:
Beckham is ready to leave Real Madrid “Because this is his third season never winning anything. And he can’t see things going to be better.”
Wayne Rooney’s problems come from his upbringing: ““It is his temper....he’s come from a poor family. His father was a boxer....he could have been a boxer as well.”
Michael Owen is rich but unhappy: “I talked to Michael Owen and said ‘you are happy?’ He said ‘not really with the club, but economically I never earned that money in my life’. So they paid the salary more than Real Madrid did. He said ‘they gave me a house, they gave me a car, it’s incredible’. They had to do it because in any other way he wouldn’t have gone there.”
• And that Rio Ferdinand is lazy. No surprise there. This is the same player who missed a season of work because he slept through a drug test.

The sum total of these indiscretions is that the FA asked Eriksson to step down, and he agreed to leave the squad after the World Cup.

Turning-out Eriksson is a poor strategy all around. It won't diminish the News' efforts to peddle their story. No longer in the employ of the FA, Eriksson may resist their efforts to cover-up the kickback scandal. And the FA must now replace the man who had single-handedly transformed a lackluster team into a contender.

Sven’s side has lost only 3 times in 33 competitive matches.

He took the squad to the quarterfinals in Korea-Japan before David Seaman’s blunder undid them, and was loss-less in qualification for Euro 2004. After five years at the helm, England finally achieved an essential condition for future success: seeding under the FIFA formula for Germany 2006.

Sven is also the winningest manager in England’s competitive history. Over five years his teams have achieved 80% of the points available, compared to the meager 57% tallied by the revolving door of Taylor-Venables-Hoddle-Keegan-Wilkinson in the 1990s.

It was the FA who ran the revolving-door manager system of the 90s, and one senses that their choice of Eriksson as England’s first foreign-born manager was more luck – or desperation – than skill.

Because foreigners are like rabbit’s-feet, Guus Hiddink is at the top of the bookmaker’s lists. Hiddink has reeled off three straight successes: with the Dutch in 1998, South Korea in 2002 and Australia this time.

The jingoists are campaigning for a local boy, with Sam Allardyce, Steve McClaren and Alan Curbishley at the top of the lists. Crystal Palace's Iain Dowie, who doesn't even make the short-list, complains that ""It will certainly be a slap in the face for English managers if we pick another foreign coach."

It will be up to the FA’s Brian Barwick to make the call. I suggest he take a month, let the tabloid furor die down, and then pick the only worthy successor: Sven-Goran Eriksson.


Post a Comment

<< Home