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Football League

Eriksson generosity ‘saved Notts County’

Swede praised by club after he writes off contract worth £2.5m

Sven Goran Eriksson has been credited with saving Notts County by writing off contractual obligations worth around £2.5m when he stepped down as the club's director of football.

The former England coach told the club's new owners he would waive the remainder of his five-year contract rather than see County go under and earned praise last night for putting the club's survival ahead of his own financial interests.

"Sven has been a gentleman throughout this and his only concern was for the future of the football club," the newly installed chief executive, Jim Rodwell, said. "He had a five-year contract but he has graciously agreed to forfeit nearly everything.

"He understands the situation we inherited and he told us that the most important thing to him was to see the football club survive. I could not tell you the exact figure but we could not have got close to meeting the sum involved."

Rodwell said that he and new owner Ray Trew, the Lincoln-based businessman who paid a nominal £1 to take control on Thursday, fear that the club's debts could amount to much more than the widely quoted £1.5m.

"We have heard figures of £1.5m, £2.5m, even £5m but it could be considerably more because the club is burning money," he said.

"We will not know until we have had a close look over the next three to four days. We were asked to step in to save the club so we could not take the due diligence process as far as we wanted to before we made the commercial decision to buy the club."

But Rodwell said there was no possibility that they would walk away from the deal, and confirmed that the £324,000 owed to HM Revenue and Customs, the subject of two winding-up orders, would be paid by the 24 February deadline.

"We can't pull out, nor would we want to," he said. "I cannot say that we could easily deal with any level of debt but we have made a commitment. The deal is done."

County are said also to owe almost £100,000 to brewers Marston's and £37,000 in legal costs to Nottingham Rugby Club. Other creditors include Nottinghamshire Police for match- day security, while some obligations under player bonus schemes have not been met.

It is the level of contracts agreed with players such as Kasper Schmeichel and Lee Hughes that the club will have to address in the longer term. A dozen new signings arrived around the time Eriksson was appointed last July, pushing salaries above the 60 per cent of turnover set down as a limit under League rules.

Rodwell said that little could be done on that score, at least before the summer, but that the club would have to be run on a more realistic budget and carped at the ambitions plans laid out by Munto Finance, the Swiss-based front for the Middle East consortium that bought the club last summer with plans to spend between £25m and £50m to take Notts County to the Premier League, but whose money subsequently turned out to be illusory.

"We looked on from afar as Munto made their rash promises and always thought it would end in tears," he said. "We haven't got business plans to get to the Championship or the Premiership. We just need to get to the end of this season. It will be hard work and there will be a certain amount of pain."

He said that the caretaker manager Dave Kevan, the former assistant to Ian McParland and Hans Backe, would probably remain in charge for the rest of the season. "He's been doing a good job so I can't see any reason why that should not be the case," he said.

Eriksson said his farewells to the playing staff yesterday but is expected to be at their FA Cup fifth-round match at Fulham tomorrow along with the departing executive chairman, Peter Trembling, who plans to seek recompense from Munto Finance for his personal losses.

"Nathan Willetts [one of the Munto group] was a friend of mine for 10 years but he has disappeared off the face of the earth," he said. "I've left the club in safe hands but what's happened is Munto's fault. If we can ever track them down I intend to take recourse."