Eriksson rails at media circus over private life

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson yesterday pledged to remain England manager even though he believed the interest in his private life was "sick" and his employers, the Football Association, had been plotting against him.

Sven Goran Eriksson yesterday pledged to remain England manager even though he believed the interest in his private life was "sick" and his employers, the Football Association, had been plotting against him.

Eriksson admitted he once said that the media intrusion into his private life could drive him away, but added: "I am stubborn. I never thought about quitting. I will never throw in the towel because of the mass media. I could do so because of bad football results, but not because of media intrusion into my private life. I want to carry on with the FA, with England and to do well at the World Cup. I am just as motivated to do well as before."

Eriksson's comments came in his first interview since the scandal which led to three staff leaving the FA, including Mark Palios, the FA's chief executive, and Faria Alam, the secretary who had relationships with Palios and Eriksson.

Despite being under siege by the media during the affair, Eriksson breezed into the FA's library, at the associations's Soho Square base, like a man who had had a relaxing summer. Shaking hands and dispensing bonhomie all round he said he looked forward to England's World Cup qualifying campaign, which is preceded by Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine in Newcastle.

Reviewing the past month, Eriksson said: "It has been a mess, a soap opera, and it is very regrettable. I always think private things should be private. When I meet English people going to games and restaurants I like them, but I can never understand this sick interest in private lives. Even if I am manager of England, I have a right to a private life.

"It is regrettable that third persons are attacked in the press, in this case Nancy [Del 'Olio, his former partner]. I don't think she deserves it. We might have problems, or not, but that is absolutely our private business.

"I tried to have a holiday. There was a lot of journalists outside my house, some trying to get inside as well. You can lock yourself in the building and sit there crying or be angry. I try not to do either. I tried to do what I normally do: tennis, running, sailing.

"In Italy this would never have happened. The papers would kill me for going out of the European Championships, but my private life - they couldn't care less."

It was not just the media who upset Eriksson. In a clear reference to the enquiry by David Davies, the FA's executive director, about his relationship with Alam, which sparked the whole public relations débâcle, he said: "My private life has nothing to do with the FA. Work is work, private life is private whoever you work for."

This comment may also have been directed at those FA Board members who want Eriksson out because of his growing personal baggage and huge salary. Not that any have said so to his face.

"'Unnamed board members' have said things about me?" Eriksson said. "I can't care less about that. 'Unnamed?' If someone has something to tell me, tell me. If I have an opinion about a person, I prefer to go to them and to tell them. No one has ever come and told me they don't want me. I trust everyone in this building and feel I have good support."

Of the proposed deal set up by Palios and Colin Gibson, the former Communications Director, with the News of the World, which would have betrayed Eriksson to save Palios, he said: "I have no idea what went on and I don't want to know. I am not interested." Eriksson added he was sorry Palios resigned as "he had always been supportive of me".

Eriksson's position within the FA appears to have been weakened by the downgrading in status of David Dein, a firm ally. The Arsenal vice-chairman has lost his position as vice-chairman of the Football Association, a post he hasd held since February 2000.

However, Eriksson received a boost on the pitch when the FA agreed a deal with Middlesbrough which allows their manager, Steve McClaren, to continue as part-time coach with the international squad.

McClaren replaces Brian Kidd who stepped down from Euro2004 because of illness and will now assist, along with veteran coach Dave Sexton, in a scouting capacity only.

Eriksson went on to defend his £4m a year salary. "I don't know if I am paid too much, that is for other people to judge, but I know I am not the highest paid manager in the world.

"I never understood why I am not judged as other managers. No one says a word about how much [Fabio] Capello, [Marcello] Lippi, [Jose] Mourinho, [Alex] Ferguson and [Arsène] Wenger earns. For me it is every day. You say that is because this is the biggest job in the world. Should it not then be the best paid?

"I sometimes think in this job you should be a saint, or at least a monk, not earn so much money and win every game."

The latter is the one aspect Eriksson accepts. He added: "I will not quit because of the media, but I could quit if we did not make the World Cup. If we do not win matches, the manager will be sacked, that is the law in football everywhere."

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