The Swede oversees England's last World Cup qualifying match against Poland tonight safe in the knowledge that his team have already secured a place in the tournament in Germany next June, but with no shortage of criticism about his development of a side that lost to Northern Ireland last month. With a £4.2m a year contract that runs to the end of the Euro 2008 competition it has long been assumed that Eriksson would step down come July.
But Eriksson insisted yesterday that the lambasting he had taken as a result of the defeat to Northern Ireland, a team then ranked 116th in the world, had done nothing to alter his conviction that he would see out his contract. Although that outcome remains unlikely, Eriksson has always adhered to the simple message that he will stay until 2008.
Asked whether the reaction to a 1-0 win over Austria that was deemed unconvincing in certain quarters had made him rethink, Eriksson said: "No, absolutely not. I told you before that the only way I would leave the job is on football results, because I am too stubborn to quit because of criticism. Absolutely too stubborn for that. What do I mean by that? The criticism? No. The pressure? No. The only way I finish the job is on football results."
Those results did not appear to include his side's defeat to Northern Ireland, and their 4-1 loss to Denmark in a friendly in August - the criterion for success and failure as established by Eriksson was based upon World Cup finals success.
"We have qualified now so let's see at the World Cup. And I have a contract until 2008 and I am convinced that we are going to get good results. My dream is the same as your dream, and all the fans and the players - to win a big tournament, to win the World Cup... We have gone out of two tournaments on marginal [factors], almost nothing. That's my opinion. Now we are here again. In eight months we start the big party again."
Eriksson said that the mood of the players after the Netherlands beat the Czech Republic on Saturday night to guarantee qualification contrasted with that of BBC television pundits such as Alan Shearer who criticised the performance against Austria. The England manager, who will be without the injured Steven Gerrard and Sol Campbell and the suspended David Beckham at Old Trafford tonight, said that his players would peak in June. "They are waiting for the World Cup to start and they were very happy to qualify. The atmosphere, the spirit in the group, in the dressing-room, the hotel, the dinner afterwards was excellent. You could read on all their faces that they expect to qualify but when you do it you are happy and I am sure you are going to see a very good performance out there next summer."
He also denied that he would consider taking the captaincy away from Beckham, who earned an unprecedented second red card for England on Saturday. "I haven't been thinking of changing it, I can't see any reason why I should. I know that John Terry is a captain, Gerrard is a captain, probably Rio Ferdinand. Even if you don't have the armband you can act as a captain. If you are a central defender, why not? If you want to talk to the team, why not? Communication, absolutely. We should be very happy that we have a lot of captains in our team."
The problems the team have encountered in their first two games of the season were, Eriksson said, now behind them. "I'm extremely satisfied because for one month it has been a worry. I wanted us to play more like a team on Saturday than we did in the first three and we showed the spirit was fantastic. I know we can play better football, but the spirit was as it was last season and in the past. I think we showed it [in the] first half and after Beckham was red-carded."Reuse content