'You've got to name your first choice soon: Nancy or Ulrika'

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The Independent Online

He had been waiting patiently, red-faced and anxious, for what seemed like an age before the first question, and it was a tough one on team selection: "You're going to have to name your first choice soon – Nancy or Ulrika?"

When it was asked, Sven Goran Eriksson's face took on the look of a player in a defensive wall who had forgotten to cup his hands over his private parts. He even used that word – private – before going on to suggest quite publicly that the allegations of an affair with his fellow Swede Ulrika Jonsson were true.

The England manager was attending an event yesterday to launch the England team's World Cup suit. There were, however, no questions about thread, style or cut – although a few wags made cracks about inside leg measurements and advised on ignoring quality and feeling width. Instead, it was an opportunity to put Mr Eriksson on the spot. But he tackled it with characteristic coolness and candour.

"That is a question which is private," he said, flushed and nervous. "The England squad is not private and I will tell you on 7 May who is to be picked. About my private life, I prefer to have that private. It is not easy, as I have seen in the past three to four days, but I have never any intention to discuss my private life."

He was never going to get off that easily, and he seemed to know it. Asked whether he had any complaints about the accuracy of the reporting of the alleged affair, Mr Eriksson replied: "If I have any complaints, I will tell you." That response, followed by another just a few questions later on the media attention – "I have not complained. I expected this" – seemed to confirm the reports to the satisfaction of Fleet Street's finest.

The England manager still has a terrific rapport with the press; unusually, journalists applauded him in and out of the event in the West End of London. But behind the reassurance, he did admit to a little naivety about the intensity of the British press.

"I was used to Italy and I thought I had had a good schooling there," he said. "But that was just a kindergarten. I am concerned that it disturbs a lot of other people in this country, in Sweden, in Italy. I am talking about parents, ex-wife, children, a lot of people. That is my main concern and I am sorry. But my job, that will go on as usual ... even if you have to use violence, more or less, to get in your car in the morning."

He was even asked whether he still loved Nancy Dell'Olio, the 37-year-old Italian lawyer with whom he lives in London. "It is private," he answered. "But I am sure you will find out. You are parked outside my house." This may have been a reference to a bouquet that arrived at their London home yesterday.

So, would the pressure result in him quitting his job after the World Cup?

"I have never thought about it, I have never talked about it and, as you see, I am sitting here and dressed [in the England suit] and my intention is to go on like this," he said.

The suit, a formal, navy blue, lightweight, woollen affair with a matching tie, didn't get much of a look in, but privately, the people at Burton who designed it must have been thrilled. The extra kudos involved in suggesting that this is the kind of kit that can land a catch such as Ms Jonsson – at just £175 off the peg – can't be bad for sales.

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