Countdown to commitment: How Eriksson's hand was forced in the struggle to keep the England coach out of Chelsea's clutches

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The Independent Online

Thursday 18 March

THURSDAY 18 MARCH

Sven Goran Eriksson, the England coach, has lunch with the Football Association's chief executive, Mark Palios, and the FA vice-chairman, David Dein, as talks start over the offer of a two-year extension to his contract which would tie Eriksson to the job until 2008.

WEDNESDAY 24 MARCH

Eriksson is reported to be Real Madrid's leading target to replace Carlos Queiroz this summer. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper Marca, Eriksson said: "If I had been offered the chance to coach Real Madrid in the past, of course I would have been interested, but that is in the past."

Eriksson attends Chelsea's Champions' League tie against Arsenal and the home crowd proclaim their support for the manager, Claudio Ranieri.

Eriksson has dinner after the game with the FA's executive director, David Davies, one of his closest confidants at Soho Square. "It was very nice," Eriksson said. "There were Swedish people there as well and not a word about my future was mentioned there. We talked about a lot of other things, not about football."

THURSDAY 25 MARCH

Eriksson arrives the following evening for clandestine two-hour talks with the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon (below), at his London apartment. He is photographed leaving but still does not know that his secret is out.

FRIDAY 26 MARCH

Eriksson attends a briefing with Sunday newspapers at Soho Square to preview his squad announcement for this week's friendly in Sweden. "I have a contract until 2006 and nothing has happened. I have no offers from any club. I don't think my agent Athole Still has had any either, he should have told me about them," Eriksson said.

SATURDAY

The Sun newspaper nevertheless publishes pictures which appear to show the England coach at his secret meeting with Kenyon two days earlier. Pressure on Eriksson, who attends Charlton's home game with Aston Villa, to clarify his future intensifies.

He holds a round of telephone conversations with Palios as the FA chief executive seeks a definitive answer from the Swede. These talks continue late into the night.

YESTERDAY

Eriksson and the FA awake to a frenzy of damaging speculation, which cannot be allowed to go unchecked. The FA calls a morning press conference at Sopwell House, the England squad's base for Wednesday's friendly in Gothenburg. Eriksson finally commits his future to England beyond the Euro 2004 finals to 2008. "It's always difficult to understand that whoever has this job should be a saint, should not earn a lot of money, should not have a private life and should not listen to other possibilities in life," Eriksson said. "I have a new contract until 2008 and here I am. I haven't let anyone down by listening to anyone else."

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