Paul Newman: Sven takes a turn on the Mandaric merry-go-round
The Football League Column
Monday 04 October 2010
Football rarely stands still when Milan Mandaric is involved, but the Leicester City chairman's appointment yesterday of Sven Goran Eriksson as his new manager completed a whirlwind sequence of events remarkable even by his standards.
Only six days ago, Mandaric publicly backed Paulo Sousa, the manager he had recruited in the summer, despite Leicester's poor start. "It is crucial we stick together, get behind the team and manager and give him a chance to turn things around," Mandaric claimed.
On Friday, Sousa was sacked. On Saturday, Eriksson was at the Walkers Stadium as Leicester beat Scunthorpe United 3-1. Yesterday, it was revealed the former England manager had signed a two-year contract. "It's got to be a landmark for this football club, a special day," Mandaric said. "Sometimes in the future we can look back and say this was truly the right thing to do."
Since leaving his England job four years ago, Eriksson has not hung around anywhere for too long, having had spells with Manchester City, Mexico, Notts County and the Ivory Coast. Given Mandaric's record, he may consider rented accommodation in Leicester rather than buying. Not counting caretakers, Eriksson will be Mandaric's seventh manager – after Robert Kelly, Martin Allen, Gary Megson, Ian Holloway, Nigel Pearson and Sousa – since his arrival in 2007.
Pearson was the only manager to enjoy sustained success, which made his departure this summer all the stranger. Pearson led the Foxes to the League One title last year and into last season's Championship play-offs, in which Leicester lost to Cardiff in the semi-finals. Within six weeks, he had joined Hull City and was replaced by Sousa.
Mandaric said at the time that Leicester had "reluctantly agreed" to let Pearson leave. However, Pearson paints a different picture. "I resigned because, firstly, Leicester had an opportunity to deny any clubs who wanted to speak to me the opportunity, but they didn't do that," Pearson told BBC Radio Leicester on Saturday. "It appears that my successor was at both play-off games at the end of last season as a guest of the club. I think that tells you something."
If it was no surprise that Mandaric sacked Sousa, it is reasonable to assume that Leicester's new Thai owners have had a major say in Eriksson's appointment. It was revealed two months ago that Mandaric had sold out to the Asia Football Investments consortium, led by Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn, who owns the Thailand-based duty-free shopping business, King Power Group.
The Football League is understood to be happy with the deal and is set to ratify it within days. However, some Leicester fans have been asking questions. For example, how tightly knit are the different shareholders in the consortium? How much do they know about English football? And what guarantees are there of financial stability given the volatile political situation in Thailand?
Eriksson, who will start work today by flying out with his new team on a week-long tour of Thailand, remains a big name throughout the football world. He is clearly highly regarded in Thailand: it was another Thai owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, who brought him back into club football three years ago at Manchester City.
Asked whether he expected to be at Leicester for long, Eriksson replied: "Yes, absolutely. I signed a contract yesterday for two years. I hope it will be longer. In football, of course, you have to get results and I know what I want here. The owners and chairman want Premier League football. I didn't sign because I want to be a manager in the Championship." He added: "The Premier League will hopefully happen this year; if it doesn't, then the year after"
Like Eriksson, such achievement does not come cheap. Leicester already operate at a considerable loss, while their stadium is still owned by an American financial institution after the club went into administration eight years ago.
Eriksson is sure to want significant sums to strengthen his squad to achieve that goal.
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