Football: Grip slips out of Rovers' grasp

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The Independent Online
Sweden's assistant manager, Tord Grip, has added to the speculation surrounding Sven Goran Eriksson's future by saying he had no intention of coming to Blackburn.

It was widely believed that Grip, who has been monitoring the club's progress and providing dossiers on the players, would eventually arrive at Ewood Park in the summer to link up with Eriksson.

However, it is now believed that Eriksson will remain in Italy by switching from Sampdoria to Lazio in the summer and Grip planned to talk to him last night to discover his intentions.

Rovers thought they had got their man before Christmas when the Swedish coach signed an agreement to take charge at Ewood Park when his current contract with Sampdoria expired this summer.

However, there have been persistent rumours that managerless Lazio have persuaded Eriksson to have a change of heart about quitting Serie A, and his latest comments seem to suggest that the Lancastrians will have to begin their managerial search once again.

Grip said: "I have just arrived home from Thailand with the national squad and am aware of the rumours and the stories. I am as anxious as anyone to find out the truth.

"Sven asked me to follow Blackburn and provide him with reports and that is just what I have been doing. But it is not correct to say I have been promised the assistant manager's job at Blackburn. That is quite wrong.

"I know there are people at the club who have been there a number of years and it wouldn't be right to take one of their jobs. I have a contract with the national team until l998 and, although there is a clause in it allowing me to work with a club, I have not discussed the situation of Blackburn with Sven."

Eriksson would not clarify his future yesterday, saying: "I haven't got any comment to make." He added: "It can be construed in a certain way but I can't speak about it and it will be in the next couple of weeks that I will be able to announce my decision. Of course it will be in everyone's interests to make an announcement now, because it leaves a big question mark for a lot of people. I feel sorry for everybody involved but it has been very difficult for me also.

"I more or less know what my decision is. When it is the right time I will tell everybody what is going to happen."

Sampdoria have climbed the Serie A table since Eriksson first announced that he was to leave for England. The Genoa club suffered a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Roma on Sunday to leave them trailing the league leaders, Juventus, by five points, but they are still in second place and in line for possible qualification for next season's new Champions' League.

Eriksson has managed Sampdoria for five years after spells with Roma and Fiorentina and arrived in Italy following a highly successful five- season stint with Benfica. The Swede admits that his ambition is to win the European Cup.

Although Sampdoria could find themselves in next season's Champions' League, Eriksson has confirmed that he will be quitting the club, and it now seems probable that the "eternal city" will become his next port of call rather than the heartland of Lancashire.