Opinion: Say what you like about Sven - he speaks for himself

The press missed the big sports story last week because the England manager gives nothing away, says Paul Newman

Anyone listening to the radio last Sunday morning while reading the newspaper sports sections must have been rather bemused. While broadcasters were reporting that the Football Association was expected to announce that morning that Sven Goran Eriksson had signed an extended contract as England manager - which was confirmed at an 11am press conference - very different stories were appearing in the papers.

According to some, Eriksson would be leaving England in the summer to take over as manager of Chelsea. Others said that the FA had given him an ultimatum to make up his mind over Chelsea's supposed offer. There was even a report that Gérard Houllier, the beleaguered manager of Liverpool, had been lined up by the FA as a possible replacement for Eriksson. Only one newspaper reported from its first edition onwards that the England coach would definitely be staying.

The spark for this media frenzy had been the publication on Saturday of photographs showing Eriksson at the home of Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea chief executive. Ever since similar pictures had been published last summer showing Eriksson on a visit to Chelsea's new owner, Roman Abramovich, there had been a flow of stories suggesting that the Russian oil magnate wanted to replace Claudio Ranieri with the Swede. The speculation had been reinforced by briefings from the Chelsea hierarchy making it clear that Ranieri's days were indeed numbered.

So why did so many experienced sports journalists not nail down the weekend's big story? The reasons are twofold: Eriksson's inscrutability and the laudable even-handedness of the FA's media department.

There has never been a manager in English football as difficult to read as Eriksson. While some of the media moan that he rarely says anything of interest, you never hear complaints about Eriksson actively misleading journalists or leaking stories to favoured individuals. Some of his predecessors, for example, have blatantly lied about team selections and injuries. Eriksson simply gives very little away. The closest he has come to telling half-truths has been when discussing his long-term commitment to England - though even then he has chosen his words carefully, refusing to rule out possible future changes of direction.

Always cordial (even when privately upbraiding a reporter last week for his sister newspaper's story that his partner, Nancy Dell'Ollio, wanted him to go to Chelsea), Eriksson is never confrontational at his press conferences.

He appears to have been equally difficult for his employers to read. Even at 11pm last Saturday at least one senior figure at the FA was not sure whether Eriksson would be staying. The media department played it straight throughout the day, stressing that talks were continuing. So does what the newspapers say really matter? In this case, yes. It is the written press rather than broadcasters who tend to lead public opinion on England matters, and it was no coincidence that the FA went for a journalist with a print background, Colin Gibson, a former football reporter and sports editor of The Sunday Telegraph and Daily Mail, when appointing a new head of communications last year.

Eriksson also appreciates the power of the written word. When he was asked last week by one of the football writers how he thought his flirtation with Chelsea would affect his standing with the England football public, he replied, in his usual matter-of-fact tone: "I think that is up to you."

Paul Newman is sports editor of 'The Independent'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape