World Cup qualification did not end the debate on a succession to Eriksson in October: it merely placed it in storage for another eight or, with a bit of luck, nine months. However, a week after the Swede insisted that there was no get-out clause in his £4.5m-a-year contract with the Football Association, his loyal friend Grip revealed that he expected Eriksson to see out his lucrative deal and to lead England's attempts to reach a fourth successive major tournament, the 2008 European Championships in Switzerland and Austria.
Grip said yesterday: "I can see him staying [beyond the World Cup]. I think so because he likes his job, that's for sure. For me, it would be absolutely perfect too, I love my job."
Eriksson's England reign has received a ringing endorsement from the FA chairman Geoff Thompson, whose support indicates that any managerial change next year would have to come at the behest of the Swede and not from an organisation that would struggle to find his severance pay. Thompson said: "Sven's contract is there until 2008, and he has been a remarkably successful manager. We finished top of the group and over the whole qualification period we had some very good matches. We had some difficult periods but at the end of the day we did very well. In recent years it has been one of most successful periods in international football. You don't need to go too far back to a time when we didn't qualify for major tournaments."
Eriksson's assistant, who also defended the England manager's prosaic approach to touchline duties - "He is just calm and telling people what to do, it's not necessary to scream and shout" - was prepared to consider a change in the international captaincy, though Grip made it clear that David Beckham's position is not under an immediate threat from the man he views as a possible successor, John Terry. "He's a very good captain for Chelsea, so why shouldn't he be captain of the England team?" he said. "He is the captain in Chelsea and Rio [Ferdinand] is sometimes the captain at Manchester United, so we just have David Beckham for us and he will be the captain in the World Cup."
Eriksson has only four more games to decide on his preferred formation before the World Cup though the first of those friendlies, against Argentina in Geneva on Saturday, not only provides a barometer of his team's credentials but the most volatile occasion England could encounter outside of a competitive sphere.
"I don't think it will be played like a friendly," said the England goalkeeper Paul Robinson yesterday. "There's a great history between the sides. The 1986 game was the first World Cup I really remember. I was absolutely gutted afterwards. Maradona was a cheat but he got away with it. We won't be thinking or looking back at that, we will be taking the game on its merit and hopefully getting a result. We may meet Argentina in the finals and it's a chance to play against a team as strong as us."
Eriksson's major dilemma in Switzerland surrounds his array of talent in midfield, and whether to disrupt the central axis of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard given England's improved display against Poland when Ledley King was summoned forward from the central defensive role he prefers with Tottenham Hotspur.
"It was a little bit of a surprise when the manager asked me to play there, but I had done it before," the Spurs captain admitted. "I knew there was a possibility I could play there going into the game. It's something I've done before so it wasn't too bad. I'm like anyone and I just want to get out on the pitch, although I don't know about playing goalkeeper."
King will not be punished for appearing to stamp on Stelios Giannakopoulos during Tottenham's 1-0 defeat at Bolton on Monday night after the FA declared that there was no intent involved.Reuse content