Eriksson left with nowhere to run

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson is understood to be more determined than ever now to see out his contract with the Football Association until 2008 after the realisation that the England team's failure at Euro 2004, and mounting criticism, means that his stock among Europe's élite clubs has fallen dramatically.

England's goalless draw with the Netherlands on Wednesday night attracted some of the harshest criticism yet of the Eriksson regime but, after four years in the England post, he has admitted privately that he is unlikely to be offered another top job.

Sources close to the England coach have indicated that Eriksson now feels, for the first time since he signed a contract extension last year, that the £4.5m annual salary he draws from the FA represents his best option. It marks a substantial change of heart from less than a year ago when the Swede was delaying the signing of a new deal and was photographed visiting the house of the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon.

Eriksson eventually agreed a new deal with the FA's former chief executive Mark Palios in March last year after expressing dismay that the governing body had leaked the news of the offer to put pressure on him to sign the contract. However, the perception that the Swedish coach has failed to make any progress with the England team since the summer, despite the relative success of their World Cup qualifying campaign, has changed his attitude to a contract that runs until the end of Euro 2008.

According to sources, Eriksson, 57, has resolved to carry on with the team as long as he retains the confidence of his squad. Despite the criticism Eriksson has taken for the failure of the 4-3-3 system he deployed against the Netherlands, and the manner in which Wayne Rooney was marginalised on the wing, he has always been able to count on the support of his senior players.

The new FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, is unlikely to have to see off the suitors who have courted Eriksson in the past under the terms of the new contract that Palios agreed with the England coach. There are clauses in the deal that would force any club that signed Eriksson to pay the FA compensation, and the governing body would also be liable for a large pay-out if it sacked the England coach.

Eriksson is aware that there is only one solution that will restore him to the top of the wanted list of Europe's top clubs and renew his employers' desire to make him stay. If he takes England to the World Cup final next year, or even wins it, then the question of him staying with the national side will be answered. His status within European football will also be restored, although it would still prove difficult to match the FA's wages.

The scenario that Eriksson must fear more than any other, however, is the reception that awaits him if England fail badly at the next World Cup. He would come back to London to begin his fourth qualification campaign for a major tournament as a lame duck coach - with nowhere else to go and two years of a lucrative contract still to run.

Although England should have no fears about qualifying for the World Cup in a group that includes Poland, Austria, Wales, Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan, the last seven months have been some of the most difficult in Eriksson's reign. Not only has he had to see off the plot by Palios to undermine him over the Faria Alam scandal, but he also caused embarrassment this week with comments that appeared to legitimise the alleged "tapping up" of Ashley Cole by Chelsea.

On Wednesday night, the England manager defended his decision to play Rooney on the left wing and argued that it was "absolutely not" a mistake to move the striker from a more central position. He maintained that, despite another low-key performance from England, his players had benefited from the friendly with the Netherlands.

"If I had doubts I would take the senior players to my room and discuss it with them, which I have done for four years," he said. "Rooney can play centre-forward, second striker, right or left. He can play offensive midfield in a diamond system. Once again, we have to look at which players are available and who we are playing against. I can't say when we will use this system."