Eriksson returns home after the storm

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The Independent Online

Of all the places Sven Goran Eriksson could choose, Gothenburg would be most like a sanctuary after the days in which he has been portrayed as perhaps the most duplicitous, faithless and, above all, greedy coach of the national side since Don Revie fled to the Persian Gulf.

Of all the places Sven Goran Eriksson could choose, Gothenburg would be most like a sanctuary after the days in which he has been portrayed as perhaps the most duplicitous, faithless and, above all, greedy coach of the national side since Don Revie fled to the Persian Gulf.

This is where his managerial journey began, beneath the curves of the Ullevi Stadium, which in May will host the Uefa Cup Eriksson won for the city in 1982 when he was 34 years old. It was the last year he coached in Sweden; he left for Portugal on the crest of that triumph.

In Lisbon and later in Italy, Eriksson became a very different personality from the awkward, rather gauche young man, who arriving from the almost unimaginable wasteland of Swedish fourth-division football asked his players if he should resign after losing the first three games of his second season.

Thomas Wernerson was his goalkeeper when Eriksson posed the question and remarked that it was the only occasion on which he saw him lose his temper. He was still in goal when Gothenburg took the Uefa Cup, beating Hamburg 4-0 on aggregate: "He is very well-regarded here because he has always been very straight and very much 'one of us'," Wernerson said.

"Had someone asked me if I thought he could go and do what he has then I would have doubted it but he has enjoyed a remarkable career.

"I know there was a paper which said that English football is more jealous than Nancy [Dell' Olio, his partner]. If he is unfaithful to Nancy, then she will forgive him but English football never will. In Sweden, everyone knows he could be sacked at any time from a job like his. For that reason he is allowed to listen to Chelsea or any other club. You need to have back-up."

Wernerson remarked that maybe one day Eriksson might return to coach Sweden, adding the rider: "not for the money, obviously". The man who now does that job, Lars Lagerback, earns roughly a 20th of the salary Eriksson and his agent, Atholl Still, negotiated in the midnight meeting following the revelations he was talking to Chelsea.

The only time Lagerback demurred from the general Swedish view that Eriksson was free to listen to other offers was when the subject of his salary came up: "Yes, there is a lot of talk about money and how much money a person should earn but, in general, he is very popular here. The Swedish media write a lot about him and he is a nice person. I first came across him in the 1970s before he started as a coach; we worked with youngsters for the Swedish FA on summer camps.

"He is the same person that I met 35 years ago. Did I think he would reach the heights he has? If you asked me the first time, I couldn't say but he was very ambitious, always interested in talking to you about coaching and what have you. But I have known Tord Grip even longer and people who work with Tord go a long way."

Swedish television has been broadcasting Premiership football or its equivalent since Sir Alf Ramsey was managing England. Lagerback and his players all grew with it.

"It's why we can understand why such a fuss is being made about Svennis," the Celtic defender, Johan Mjallby said. "But it is very much an English thing about the morals of the situation. For us in Sweden, we don't make a big deal out of it. If you are in a job and get an offer, you have to listen. You don't have to accept it but you know you will not be in the game forever."

Olof Mellberg ducked the question of the morality of negotiating with Chelsea while managing England but the Aston Villa defender doubted Eriksson could think the furore unjust.

"He should not complain about the pressure he is under now," he said. "It is the same for all England managers, it's a big job, you get a lot of attention if you take it. He knew what it would be like when he took it and he certainly knows it now. It's the price on the ticket."

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