England’s ‘golden generation’ have flown home after being dumped out of the World Cup Finals at a stage and in a fashion familiar to all their fans at home, with few of those fans unlikely to miss Eriksson.
The England World Cup Finals campaign was played out excruciatingly to script.
Painfully scraping through against weak opponents before an exit in the knock out stages despite the team putting in its best performance of the tournament is a recurring nightmare that came back to haunt England.
In the next few days the post mortems will no doubt play out and most will point the finger of blame at the now departed Swede.
The complaints have some merit.
The formation never balanced the side’s best talent, with the 4-5-1 system simply not bringing out the best in Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney.
“Eriksson was always closer to the backpages than the silverware”
Team selection before and during the tournament will leave many pundits shaking their heads.
Just what the good did the selection of teenage striker Theo Walcott do?
And despite so many pleas, Eriksson simply refused to show any emotion on the touchline.
How did Sven Goran get there?
After a successful stints in domestic football in the leagues of Sweden, Portugal and Italy Eriksson was launched onto the international stage by England on February 28, 2001 as he became their first foreign manager.
However an interesting prologue to his English arrival was that in 1997 the Swede turned his back on a signed contract with Blackburn Rovers to join the star studded Lazio club in the Italian Serie A.
This seemingly small incident was to be the first in a long line of contract related problems during his tenure.
His appointment quickly gained public support when he won his opening match 3-0 against Spain at Villa Park.
The conquering hero
A good run of results then became the stuff of English sporting legend when he orchestrated a 5-1 humilitation of Germany in Germany.
It was arguably England football’s finest moment since the 1966 World Cup victory and Eriksson returned home a hero.
Eriksson then made the telling move of handing the captain’s armband to David Beckham.
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The then Manchester United midfielder repaid his manager’s faith with a number of telling goals, none more important than a late equaliser against Greece that sent England to Japan and Korea as winners of their group.
As the England fans celebrated and looked forward to the World Cup, few would have thought that their honeymoon with the bespectacled Swede was over.
The association with the tabloid presses began as England ramped up their 2002 World Cup preparation when it was revealed that Eriksson had had a long running affair with compatriot Ulrika Jonsson.
The affair, which outraged Eriksson’s long time girlfriend Nancy Dell’Ollio, momentarily took the focus off the World Cup as the manager felt the heat from the Fleet St blowtorch.
The World Cup of 2002 did provide England with another highlight as they bundled long time rival Argentina out of the tournament in the group stage.
However, questions began to be asked of Eriksson’s tactics especially his inability to create late goals, and when the side feebly surrendered to Brazil in the quarter finals his critics grew ten fold over night.
After scoring early, England found themselves trailling in the second half 2-1, but even when Brazil had Ronaldinho sent off they failed to threaten and were quickly cast aside as also rans.
From this moment on, Eriksson always seemed closer to the back pages than to silverware.
The army of critics gathered troops over his perceived devaluing of International friendlies and England caps. Eager to please Premiership managers, Eriksson would field vastly different sides before and after half-time.
Off to read the job ads
When he made 11 changes at half time against Australia in London on the 13th of February 2003 it prompted FIFA to fast track a new rule which limited substitutes to six.
Former England international Alan Shearer then slammed Eriksson claiming he handed out England caps too easily.
Those issues were nothing compared to the next storm which would follow the England manager.
His clandestine meetings with Peter Kenyon soon found their way onto the sports pages and it was soon believed that he would be in charge of the Abrhamovich funded Chelsea side.
Meanwhile, the public also became aware of a relationship the Swede was having with FA secretary Faria Alam. What was more was the she was also having a relationship with FA chief Mark Palios.
While Barbara Cartland may have been disappointed she didn’t think of a similar script, the FA were less impressed.
Palios was forced to resign, while Eriksson was found to have no case to answer despite lying about the affair.
This incident didn’t stop the FA from upgrading and extending his contract in order to ward off the Chelsea admirers. The reported 4 million pounds per year causing much chagrin to the trophy hungry English public who were fast losing patience with the Scudetto winning boss.
Euro 2004 provided a welcome break from all football fans tired of the personal stories which were dogging their manager, however, the tournament posed more questions than it answered.
Despite England fans again believing they had a side capable of winning the tournament they were again forced to watch their side bow out well short of the final, as “Big Phil” Scolari again successfully played the role of nemesis as he guided his Portugal side through penalties against England.
Eriksson was again forced to defend himself and his team upon return, and World Cup qualification provided little respite with an ire raising defeat to Denmark and a humiliating 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland in Belfast.
The Eriksson era is now over, due to yet another victory by a Scolari led side.
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