Wily Fox Eriksson turns on that old charm again

Former England manager looks forward to his first Leicester game tomorrow with that familiar twinkling in his eyes

Even the badge on Sven Goran Eriksson's gleaming white Leicester City tracksuit, depicting a fox's head, seems to suit the Swede's wily personality and reputation as a crafty, even cunning, operator.

Better, certainly, than the magpie that adorns the crest of the former England manager's last club in the East Midlands. Asked whether his reputation suffered during his seven-month tenure at Notts County, Eriksson replied bluntly: "I think so. People still ask me: 'Why the hell did you do that?'"

The answer, he revealed, was that he was tempted by the role of director of football to a club whose then owners had sold him the vision of steering the club from League Two to the Premier League. "I was happy," he recalled. "I had five years to take them through the system. But what should have happened didn't happen."

There are those, possibly even among Leicester's sizeable fan base, who will have doubts as to whether the same scenario will be played out at the Walkers Stadium, where Eriksson will take charge for the first time tomorrow against a Hull City side under the stewardship of Nigel Pearson, who led the Foxes to promotion 18 months ago.

The team Eriksson, 62, has inherited from Paulo Sousa is in the relegation zone of a division in which he has never worked, the Championship, and the club has new Thai owners, the father and son team of Vichai and Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn, with no experience of the English game.

If Leicester's position is a reflection of their abilities, he has much work to do. Do they deserve to be where they are? "Good question," Eriksson said with a twinkle of the eyes and that disarming, flattering smile that became his trademark during his five and a half years with England. "But I can't answer it. I saw them beat Scunthorpe and they played very well. But their position is awful."

Eriksson's last brush with Thai owners, under Thaksin Shinawatra at Manchester City in 2007-08, ended in dismissal by the former Prime Minister and an 8-1 defeat in his last match as a club manager, at Middlesbrough. Dr Thaksin then made him take the squad to Thailand even though he knew Eriksson was finished at Eastlands.

"The last game was awful," Eriksson said. "Things were very difficult. The players knew I was leaving and didn't want to play in protest against Thaksin. But there's no doubt about the ambition of the owners here. They want this club in the Premier League and they have told me they want that as quickly as possible. They tell me they're not in it for the short term, to take the club up and then try to sell it. I wanted to hear that from them."

Expectations can be a double-edged sword, and a local-paper columnist predicted Leicester would be "in the top six by Christmas". Eriksson views them as a blessing. "It's wonderful to work in a club, or a country, where there are great expectations," he said. "If there are no expectations, you're in the wrong place."

The England job, for him, was definitely the right place, even though it ended at the 2006 World Cup with a third successive exit from a major tournament in the quarter-finals and with his image somewhat besmirched by the Faria Alam and "Fake Sheikh" sagas. Did he have a wry smile when Fabio Capello's team incurred the wrath of the Wembley crowd? "No. Why should I smile? I want England to win. Most of the players in the squad are ones I had.

"I was extremely proud to have that job and happy every day I was in it. If it was up to me, I would have stayed, but I couldn't."

The most recent World Cup and results like Tuesday's make his already respectable reign look better all the time, but Eriksson will not be tempted into criticism of Capello, with whom he once shared an Italian rivalry when they coached Lazio and Roma respectively, saying: "He'll come through this OK because he's such a good manager."

As for his own England record, he added: "I wasn't that bad, maybe. But that's history." Having relished his return to the technical area with Ivory Coast in South Africa, he is looking forward to the tussle with Hull and Pearson. "The dugout is the closest and best place to be. Looking back, I realise how much I missed it at Notts County. Sometimes when they were training, you just felt, 'Shit. I'd like to be there'."

Eriksson is also, of course, back in his adopted country. "English people have always been kind to me," he said, flashing that seductive smile again. "I never had anyone say: 'Sven, why did you do that?' Never. During all my time as England manager."

'Of course Sven would be interested in...': Jobs Eriksson has been linked with since leaving England

No other manager has his name linked with as many vacant jobs as Sven Goran Eriksson. We round up the links since he left the England job four years ago.

South Africa

Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 World Cup, claimed in March 2006 Eriksson's "attitude would be important when building a new South Africa team".

Jamaica

Linked with £3m-a-year deal in July 2006.

Internazionale

Linked with Italians in September 2006.

Newcastle United

Agent Athole Still, May 2007: "Sven would be interested in Newcastle".

Marseilles

Still claimed the job was 'one of three opportunities' in January 2007, but Eriksson denied interest.

Chelsea

Eriksson dismissed reports linking him with the Londoners in September 2007.

Benfica

The club confirms talks in May 2008.

Portsmouth

David James, February 2009: "Somebody of his calibre would be a tremendous acquisition".

Sweden

Jonas Nystedt, of the Swedish FA (Oct 2009): "There is a special list of names and Eriksson is on that list".

Nigeria

"I regret that I went there, it was a mistake," said Eriksson of talks with the Nigerian FA in May 2010.

Australia

Bookmakers favourite in June 2010.

Liverpool

Eriksson, June 2010: "I have been a fan all of my life. Would I want to be the manager of Liverpool? It is every manager's dream".

Fulham

Still (July 2010): "It's a very attractive club. We've known for weeks Sven's one of the managers under consideration".

Ukraine

Linked in August 2010.

Aston Villa

"Of course Sven would be interested. He has always said that he would like to go back into the Premier League," a source close to Eriksson said Still (August 2010): "There has been no contact from Villa. Sven gets associated with a lot of big jobs but, as we speak, there has been no contact".

Al Hilal

Reports in the Saudi Arabian press last month claimed the Swede was close to agreeing a €1.5m deal.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before