James Lawton: He's a £40m joke – but Notts County laugh at their peril

No wonder the Iceman's eyes shone so brightly from behind the rimless specs. It's a wonderful joke, the Sven Goran Eriksson football story, English edition, and every laugh is worth a million, at least.

The last, almost exquisite twist is that just when the old schmoozer's credibility in the job – out of which he is estimated to have made at least £40m since he arrived as England manager eight years ago – finally collapsed, a new one has been created for him by another venerable failure known as Notts County.

It is new for him, at least. Football directors have been around for some time, mostly with disastrous consequences, but until County, the oldest but at the moment not conspicuously the wisest of football clubs, received their Middle Eastern windfall via the tax haven of Switzerland, no one would have imagined Sven joining their ranks.

The job doesn't work, basically, because it is completely at odds with the time-honoured concept of how you make your success at every level of the game.

You appoint a strong, successful manager who nominates the players he wants and, according to the resources of the club, the training facilities and scouting system he deems necessary. This doesn't require Nasa levels of planning. It's old-fashioned common sense, leavened now by the need to have an idea of what is happening in the world market which, we are told by County, is where their new football director comes in.

He was at pains yesterday to report that his mobile phone had been ringing non-stop since the news of his appointment. No kidding. Sven said he knew a lot of agents.

Some of them no doubt had guarded his number jealously from the time Thaksin Shinawatra, former owner of Manchester City, provided him with £40m-plus to reseed a moribund team. The result was a burst of signings which included a hazard number made on the less than foolproof evidence of video tapes and slightly more than half a season of football of some virtuosity. Then, pretty much wholesale disintegration and another sweet pay-off.

When Mexico sacked Eriksson after their poor start put them in danger of not qualifying for next year's World Cup, and chipped in another whacking donation to his subsistence fund, naturally he cast about for further opportunities.

Yesterday he explained that if he had wanted a good climate and a beautiful environment he would probably have returned to Italy, though perhaps not Lazio, where for some time they have been counting the cost of the Scudetto he won there before setting up the David Beckham Appreciation Society as manager of England.

What we have to understand, though, is that Sven is at Meadow Lane, not for the money but the challenge. The challenge, this is, of getting back to the roots he first laid down in football with a lowly club in his native Sweden, the springboard for his success in Portugal and Italy and, well, Portugal and Italy.

We laugh at Sven, though, only at our own peril. If his record since he left Lazio is beyond satire, it seems it is also beyond the possibility of unemployment. He survives with considerable charm and an aura that is preserved with something not far short of genius.

True, he ran a brief gauntlet of interrogation yesterday. Patiently, he explained that, yes, he could take the easy life if he wanted, but football was so in his heart that he was happy to take what was maybe the greatest challenge of his football life, which was, it had already been explained, to set up a training complex, institute a scouting system and talk to a lot of agents.

Meanwhile, the manager, Ian McParland, would go about the business of making the team a little better equipped to avoid exile from the league in which the club has always proudly boasted of its status as a founder member. McParland is widely believed to be vulnerable to the Eriksson broom, but after pointing out that when he first heard the news it wasn't 1 April he added to the chorus, saying it was a masterstroke.

The executive chairman, Peter Trembling, said everything you would have expected him to say. Eriksson was a great football figure. He had turned his back on an easy, luxurious life, because football was still in his heart, he couldn't put aside the challenge. Not at the loss of £2m a year, he couldn't.

When Eriksson was coach of England he tended to take a passive role in training sessions. Shortly before the European Championship of 2004 he consulted his players about the disposition of the midfield and two years later he went to Germany and the World Cup with Theo Walcott and one other fully fit striker. At various times he was courted by Chelsea and a faked sheikh, the latter collision largely instrumental in his losing his job. In the mid-term, however, he had won a massive pay rise.

Since then he has earned, with pay-offs, the best part of £10m. If all this is indeed a joke, who can say it isn't a miraculous one?

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam