England's coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, insisted yesterday that he had never given a moment's thought to walking away from the job, despite his uncomfortable introduction to British interest in the private life of public figures.
Continuing fascination with his relationship with a fellow Swede, Ulrika Jonsson, meant that yesterday was the first time that a launch of the official suite to be worn by England's players and officials at the World Cup finals was broadcast live to the nation. The lightweight navy number is on sale from today – St George's Day – for £175 (off the peg) or £250 (made to measure) and the suppliers, Burton, are keen to emphasise that they also booted and suited the team who won the tournament in 1966.
From memory, however, Sir Alf Ramsey was never asked: "Who's you're first pick, Nancy or Ulrika?'' That was the first question from the floor yesterday, which Eriksson handled with the calm assurance that has become his trademark. "My private life is my private life,'' was the mantra for the day, his dignified performance helping to turn what might have been a fraught occasion into something of a public relations triumph for the Football Association.
Although unsure what the players reaction would be, he expressed concern only at the effect of the publicity on relatives and friends. "It disturbs a lot of other people in this country, in Sweden and in Italy,'' he said, "like parents, my ex-wife, children and others. I'm sorry for them.''
Mild irritation showed only with a comment about being forced "to use violence more or less to get into my car in the morning – it's not pleasant to be followed by about 20 people, but I can't do anything about it''.
Asked about the possibility of resigning, he replied: "I've never thought about it. I'm sitting here today and my intention is to go on like this. My intentions are to carry on. I won't be distracted in my job, I've been trying to do normal things. I saw a game on Saturday and on Sunday.''
The specific job in hand, of course, is finalising a list of 23 players to travel to Japan, which will be made public a fortnight today, on 7 May. Fingers and toes will then be kept crossed for four more days until the Premiership season finishes, and a little longer if Manchester United are involved in the European Cup final on 15 May.
"I've named it many times in my head and changed my mind many times,'' Eriksson said. "I think you can pick 16 or 17 names, but then it's very difficult. There will be many disappointed players in this country. As a manager it's the worst thing you have to do, to tell somebody that they're not playing. It's worse than telling them they're not even on the bench for a match.'' Even worse, it seems, than facing questions in public about being torn between two lovers.
One player apparently resigning himself to spending the summer elsewhere is Arsenal's Martin Keown. Although regarded as a contender for the fourth central defender's position, he said yesterday: "It's unlikely I'll be going with England. Of course I want to. But I'm concentrating on what we have to do at Arsenal.''Reuse content