In an attempt to avoid the type of off-field controversy which marred England's two most recent international tournament appearances, Sven Goran Eriksson has made it clear that he will not be writing a World Cup diary, and will not allow his players to gamble against each other for large sums of money in card games in Japan and South Korea this summer.
The Swede is anxious not to repeat the mistakes of his two predecessors. Glenn Hoddle sowed the seeds of his downfall when he published a candid account of the 1998 World Cup in France. The book also included revelations about how he had told players, most notoriously Paul Gascoigne, that they would not be part of the squad for the finals. Kevin Keegan's reign was also soured when it was alleged that players were waging large amounts in card schools during the Euro 2000.
"I have got, I think, 20 requests to do diaries," the England manager said at the launch of his new PC and PlayStation games, Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup Manager and Challenge. "But I have told the publishers that I will not do that. It is very much up to me whether or not I write a book like this, but I have already had a couple of chats about it with David Davies [the executive director of the Football Association] and have told him that I am not interested." Ironically, it was Davies who helped Hoddle ghostwrite the infamous France 98 book.
Eriksson will not stop players from penning their own diaries, although he warns of the obvious difficulties associated with such ventures. "I have not spoken about this with the players yet," he said, "but I know that writing these sorts of books is not easy. People want to know exactly what has happened, but in our position that is not possible. You cannot have everything. I have always been of the opinion that what happens in a dressing room should never come out – not even to the chairman of the FA. It must stay between the players, myself and my coaches." Eriksson adds: "It cannot be leaked, because if things come out, then you are sooner or later going to be in big trouble. As a player and a manager, you have a responsibility not to talk about some problems we have. What we do when England are together is like a family. It's between us."
Bearing in mind that the squad could, depending on results, be on the road for more than six weeks, the England manager is also keen to find ways to keep the players entertained. He will hold a more detailed meeting to discuss the matter when the final 23 are selected, but has already insisted that he would not be in favour of expensive card nights. "If players are playing for big money, I think this is a very bad way to kill time," he said. "If they want to play £1 here and £1 there, who cares. But I do not want them playing for huge amounts."
While Eriksson will not stop individuals from pursuing personal interests such as horse racing, he clearly wants to assemble a squad who are going to pull in the same direction. "I am anxious that everyone leads as normal a life as possible," he said, "and I do not want to stop people from having fun. If some people like the races, that is fine, but I don't want the hotel to become a major gambling place.
"I want a group of good players, of course, but I also want good men. There is going to be a lot of sitting around, and some may not get to play much, so I need to make sure that we do not have unhappy people. This is important if we are to have a successful World Cup."Reuse content