It's not about money, says Sven as he aims for miracle
Eriksson accepts deal for £40,000 a week to lead Notts County into Premier League
Thursday 23 July 2009
The Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson today begins work on an extraordinary plan to take Notts County from the basement level of the Football League to the Premier League after his appointment as the club's new director of football was confirmed yesterday.
The Swede, who has previously managed Manchester City in the top flight and lost his job as Mexico's national coach in April, has signed a five-year contract, reportedly worth about £2m per year, to oversee the ambitions of the League Two club, who finished 19th in their division last season. Tord Grip, his assistant while he was England coach, will work alongside him at Meadow Lane, although the current manager Ian McParland will remain in charge of the team.
The appointment follows a club takeover completed a week ago by Munto Finance, a consortium backed with Middle Eastern money, who believes they can take County to the Championship within five years and to the Premier League soon afterwards. Such dreamy ambitions are rarely realised, yet Eriksson has signed up to theirs. Generous bonuses are promised should those objectives be achieved.
Eriksson, who until recently was thought to be the principal contender to become Portsmouth's manager, is no stranger to big contracts and advantageous early pay-offs. He was paid £2m when he left the Mexico job, following a £1.7m settlement when he parted company with Manchester City and £3.75m in compensation when he stepped down from his England role in 2006.
So, as he took his seat alongside the executive chairman, Peter Trembling, and McParland, to be introduced as County's director of football, there was one question that begged to be asked: "What was it, Sven, that first attracted you to sign a £10m contract to work in the basement division of English league football?"
Not the money, he insisted. "If it was for the money I could have easily gone elsewhere for much, much more," he said. "I'm not here for money, I am here for the challenge of starting almost from the bottom.
"I'm not here for the weather, I'm not concerned whether the city is nice or not. If that was the case then I could have gone to Italy. I'm here for the big challenge and that's the truth.
"I think it's the biggest football challenge of my life, trying to take Notts County to the Premier League, but that's the target. The challenge is perhaps the most difficult football job I've had so far. When my agent, Athole Still, asked me if I would be interested in Notts County I said, 'I am not sure about that', but after seeing the project I said yes. It was quick, it was done within two weeks.
"I always said I wanted to come back to the Premier League. I chose a difficult way to do it I think. It will take a few years, but I think we will do it."
Eriksson, according to Trembling, is "perfectly suited" to the role the consortium identified for him, even though his CV includes little or no experience of some of the jobs supposedly in his remit.
These include taking charge of training facilities, developing the youth academy, setting up a scouting network, overseeing transfer negotiations, monitoring the health, fitness and well-being of players as well as developing the treatment room, establishing overseas links with other clubs and forging community football links.
Indeed, McParland believes he has achieved much of Eriksson's brief already in his 20 months as manager. "When I came in there was one team – no reserves, no Under-16s," he said. "Players were driving to training in their kit, then taking it home with them to wash. I said I would take the job on condition that you let me build the club. I said, 'Let me start up the school of excellence again, let me get a youth team up and running, let me get a proper medical side, a proper infrastructure.'
"I have built that already, and on a limited budget. It does not need a massive overhaul, just someone to build on what I have put in place."
Eriksson's role, boiled down, seems primarily to be to identify and build a training ground, which they do not have, and to bring in players, even though, by his own admission, he knows little about this level of football. It is at least a more specific function than Grip's, who said: "I will be putting my focus into a little bit of everything."
Eriksson added: "Players and a training ground are the key. If we don't have players and a training ground, life is very difficult for the manager, almost impossible I would say.
"I have discussed players with him [McParland] and obviously I don't know the players. I don't know League Two at all. But internationally I know a lot of agents, managers – they have already started phoning me from half of Europe."
At the end of his five-year contract Eriksson will be 66, which probably explains why the bookmaker William Hill is offering 20-1 for him to see out his contract – and 1-150 that he does not.
Eye for silver: How Sven came to be at Notts County
Notts County were in administration and faced expulsion from the Football League as recently as 2003. How is it they are now flush with cash?
Because the club has just been bought by Munto Finance, who paid a reported £10m to the previous owners, a supporters' trust, and see the club as having Premier League potential.
Who are Munto Finance?
Munto Finance is an acquisition vehicle set up for the purpose of buying Notts County. It is owned by the Qadbak Investment Fund, a Swiss-based consortium comprising mainly investors based in the Middle East. These are said to include Abdullah bin Saeed al-Thani, a multi-millionaire Qatari tycoon who is vice-president of the Dubai-based Al Thani Investment. Peter Willett, a representative of Al Thani Investment, has joined the board at Notts County.
Why are they investing in Notts County?
According to Peter Trembling, the club's new chief executive, the investors are "passionate about football" and see the potential in Notts County's "brand, heritage and history" as the world's oldest league club, as well as seeing the club's Meadow Lane ground, close to the River Trent, as an attractive development proposition for restaurant, banqueting and conference facilities.
How much can Notts County expect to see of Eriksson for his £40,000 a week?
Quite a lot, beginning with County's pre-season friendly against neighbours Nottingham Forest on Saturday. "I will be based in Nottingham," Eriksson said. "You cannot live in London or Sweden and work in Nottingham. I just hope there are not too many paparazzi around, although I expect there will be."
Globe trotter: Sven's travels
Sweden Early success with Degerfors earned Sven position at Gothenburg, where he won the treble.
Portugal Led Benfica to successive titles before later returning.
Italy Quiet spells with Roma, Fiorentina and Sampdoria preceded fruitful three years with Lazio.
England Led national side to three quarter-finals between 2000-06. Returned for year at Manchester City.
Mexico Nine poor months in charge before sacking in April.
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