Eriksson offered extended England contract

Brooking disappoints West Ham fans by taking up powerful new role at FA as Palios seeks to impose authority on Soho Square
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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson has been offered a new four-year contract to remain as England's head coach. The deal will run until after the European Championships in 2008 and would involve an increase on his current £3m-a-year contract. The Football Association confirmed yesterday that it has started talks with the Swede, who has been widely tipped to leave the England job after Euro 2004 despite his present deal taking him through to the next World Cup in 2006.

The announcement was revealed following an FA board meeting and was accompanied by a major shake-up initiated by its new chief executive, Mark Palios. Trevor Brooking, the former England international, has been appointed into a new, powerful role as director of football development while the FA's marketing and communications director, Paul Barber, is leaving.

Barber was widely blamed for the débâcle over the selection and then subsequent withdrawal of the Leeds United striker Alan Smith - who had been arrested by police after throwing a plastic bottle into the crowd during the game against Manchester United at Elland Road last month - from the squad for England's friendly against Denmark. The FA - who denied the Smith affair was responsible for the departure - has chosen the sports journalist Colin Gibson as his replacement.

Brooking's appointment means he will step down as a director of West Ham United - a move which will disappoint rebel shareholders who had wanted to install him as chairman at next month's extraordinary meeting instead of the unpopular Terence Brown.

"Leaving West Ham will be a huge wrench, but my family and I knew very quickly I was taking the right decision," Brooking said. "Everybody knows my passion for English football at all levels. It will be a wonderful challenge to share this passion with the whole football community."

It was unclear last night if he will continue his media work. Brooking's role will be wide-ranging - overseeing the game from international level down to junior park football. He has already proved himself to be an effective administrator during his time as chairman of Sport England and will now work closely with Eriksson, with whom he has a good relationship.

The FA's eagerness to begin contract talks with their coach now has come as a surprise but may prove to be a clever ploy. Although its head of media relations, Adrian Bevington, said that "there is no deadline for when an agreement has to be reached", questions over Eriksson's future will now intensify - starting with the Euro 2004 draw in Lisbon this weekend. The discussions, given the nature of such contracts, will be lengthy, but it is inconceivable that they would not be concluded before next summer.

There is every reason for him to stay longer - at least as far as his employers are concerned. With an offer now on the table, it will be harder for Eriksson, 55, to dodge the issue - and, if he refuses it, the FA will have time to find a replacement.

The timing and the other appointments, are also, undoubtedly, an attempt by Palios to bolster his own undermined position after the rocky start he has made to his tenure as chief executive. Widely praised for his hard-line stance over the exclusion of Rio Ferdinand because of his missed drugs test appointment, he has been pilloried for his muddled handling of Smith. The police subsequently decided to take no action against the player although the FA has charged him with improper conduct. Eriksson, already angered by the departure of the former chief executive Adam Crozier, was further disenchanted by the incident - and the Ferdinand case. On both occasions he clearly supported the players against the FA.

Palios was effusive in his praise of Eriksson last night. "Sven is England's most successful coach since the legendary Sir Alf Ramsey. He has already contributed enormously to the reputation of England in Europe and around the world. This offer shows the faith we all have in him."

Since becoming England coach in 2001, Eriksson has been linked with several club jobs - notably Manchester United and Chelsea. Reports in a Swedish newspaper even suggested that Eriksson has already signed a pre-contract agreement with Chelsea, with a deal worth £4.5m a year. He has also made no secret of his desire to return to club football and was photographed in July at a meeting with Chelsea's new owner, Roman Abramovich.

Eriksson undoubtedly has a good record as coach. England have lost only one competitive match - the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil - under him and qualified unbeaten for the Euro 2004 finals.

David Davies has new responsibilities as executive director - his task will be liaising with the football community, including the clubs, at home and abroad. Steve Parkin, the director of the national game, is also leaving.

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