Eriksson receives a very English welcome

So here he finally was, igniting sheet lightning from the photographers - tanned, smart and composed. But we knew that about the prospective England manager already. What the great British press had a first opportunity to ask Sven Goran Eriksson yesterday effectively amounted to this: "Do you realise you're a foreigner, and we're not used to them managing our national team?" With the sub-clause: "So when are you going to win us the World Cup then?"

So here he finally was, igniting sheet lightning from the photographers - tanned, smart and composed. But we knew that about the prospective England manager already. What the great British press had a first opportunity to ask Sven Goran Eriksson yesterday effectively amounted to this: "Do you realise you're a foreigner, and we're not used to them managing our national team?" With the sub-clause: "So when are you going to win us the World Cup then?"

The 52-year-old Swede, who will officially start a five-year contract with England next July but is hoping his club, Lazio, will allow him to oversee World Cup qualifiers against Finland and Albania in March and Greece in June, responded with all the urbanity we had been led to expect.

Eriksson's first media appearance within these shores was necessarily brief, as he was due to fly straight back to Rome to take a training session with the players he had steered to a timely 2-1 home victory over Brescia on the previous afternoon. But if he was feeling faintly bigamous, he did not betray any obvious signs.

Pressed on where his heart, or his brain, naturally lay, a request which ended with the despairing question: "Where are you?" he responded with a faint smile: "I don't know the name of this room." It was, in fact, the St Alban Suite but Eriksson didn't need to know that.

Just as, until now, he has not needed to know every detail about the English game. Challenged - in a caring way, you understand - to name the Leicester City goalkeeper or the Sunderland left-back - he replied that he did not know, but pointed out that he had not previously had a pressing reason to do so.

"I assure you that when I come here I will know everything about the English game," he added.

To that end he will be assisted by his Swedish assistant at Lazio, Tord Grip, who will arrive at the Football Association on 15 November to begin scouting the territory.

Eriksson's more considered response to the heart and brain question was more scathing.

"I hope I am not so limited that I only have to think about one thing," he said quietly. "We have a brain which is bigger than that. My heart is always with me. But it will be more and more English."

He did, however, acknowledge the widely voiced adverse reaction to his appointment. "I can understand people saying England should have an English manager," he said. "In football, in life, you have always some people against you. I hope after a couple of years that those talking against me will be talking for me. But you have to show that with work, not words."

Adam Crozier, the Football Association's chief executive, spoke optimistically about the likelihood that, when talks resumed next week, Lazio would agree to release their manager on a part-time basis in March

Whenever Eriksson's work does begin in earnest, however, he does not see the need to make sweeping reforms. "I don't think England have done so badly to need radical change," he said, while studiously avoiding being drawn into any criticism of previous regimes. "I wouldn't have taken this job unless I was optimistic about the future.

"To speak of individuals, maybe the most famous in the world is David Beckham. His right foot is not so bad. He's a great player - but there are many of them here."

Asked why, if he so admired British players, he had only signed one in his career - David Platt, while he was at Sampdoria - he replied that players such as Beckham were too expensive even for the likes of Lazio.

Eriksson was upbeat about England's chances of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. "There are still six games to go and of course we have a chance to do it. And I think we will do it. I am very pleased, though, that the FA are preparing five years in advance, not just seeing the next World Cup. I think I will stay five years. I hope so. Even seven, I hope.

"It was a big surprise to me when I first heard England wanted me to be manager. It took me a very short time to decide to take it - I don't know how many hours. I could not say no."

Was that, someone asked, before or after his £2m annual salary was mentioned? "I didn't take this job for the money, or for the weather, that is for sure," he replied. "I could have earned more if I stayed in Italy, or Spain.

"England is a big job, a big challenge. I will be very proud when I go out there and hear the national hymn - what do you say... ?" "Anthem," a number of media people volunteered. Helpfully, or course.

Called on to explain why he turned his back on taking over at Blackburn Rovers three years ago, Eriksson said he had received an alternative offer from Lazio two days after signing the contract and that the Rovers' chairman, Jack Walker, had accepted his change of heart.

"We divorced like friends," he said. "And no, it will not happen again." "What if Germany calls?" someone asked.

"No," he responded. "Not even if Brazil calls." His final request involved explaining that funny foreign name of his.

"In Italy I am called Sven," he said. "In Sweden I am called Svennis. My real name is Sven Goran." "And in England," someone called out, "we might call you... " Eriksson will find out soon enough how that sentence ends.

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