FA ignore City slicker Sven but he knows what England expects

Eriksson's reputation has been restored as he finds peace back at club level
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As an expert witness, you may have expected him to have been consulted by the headhunter, Brian Barwick. But no. Apparently, the "world-class" team advising the Football Association's chief executive on the identity of the new England head coach hasn't included Sven Goran Eriksson. "It's up to them," he says. "Of course I have views on it. I had the job for five-and-a-half years."

So, you ask, what kind of person should they seek? "He has to win every game. Not a big contract [he smiles ruefully]." "And live like a saint?", someone prompts him. "I agree" [a wider smile, accompanied by blushing]. The Swede adds swiftly: "That was a joke, of course. No, I don't know. It's absolutely not my business. It seems like they are after only one right man [he refers presumably to Jose Mourinho]. I suppose there are a lot of right men."

He is asked: "What of Fabio Capello? It would be a culture shock for someone like him?" "No, I don't think so. The CV for Capello speaks for itself. I know him very well. He's been around in Italy, of course, and then in Spain. But all the names I see in the newspapers... Mourinho's very good, Lippi's very good, O'Neill is very good, Klinsmann, he tried it before and did very well with Germany."

Eriksson, hair seemingly having greyed and receded a little more since last on England parade, appears decidedly more at peace with himself than when on international duty, which seems an eternity ago now but concluded only last summer.

However, he refutes the suggestion that he was ever unduly vexed by his England responsibilities. "I want to work with players. I'm very happy where I am, because it's a big club and it's a project," he says after training at Manchester City's Carrington base on Friday. "We have money, and to be involved in creating something is absolutely fantastic. But I was extremely happy as well with England, every day. I loved the job, and I don't regret anything. I think I was relaxed as I am here. I don't think I've changed. If you ask the players or staff, they will tell you that they very rarely saw me nervous and very seldom angry."

Today he can look on dispassionately at rumours surrounding the future occupancy of his former position. He would clearly prefer not to be interrogated on the subject, but also accepts that it will live with him for years to come and no matter that there is a renaissance going on, under him, here at City.

With the club already nudging the Big Four, further investment is anticipated in the transfer window. Eriksson, understandably, won't name names, but owner Thaksin Shinawatra is not so discreet. He has conceded that Internazionale's Brazilian forward Adriano is a target. There will also necessarily be sales; althouth the City manager has no intention that they will include the much-vaunted local boy, a product of City's Academy, Michael Johnson, reportedly coveted by Liverpool last season. "I heard rumours about that. But I have never asked him," says Eriksson. "I think today he's very happy where he is."

So what would his response be if Liverpool returned in January and attempted to lure him? "They'd have to sell the stadium," he retorts. A swap with Steven Gerrard could force his hand? The question was asked in jest. "Yeah, that's maybe the only way. But I don't think Johnson wants to go anywhere."

The 19-year-old has been compared with the Liverpool midfielder. "He's a bit different. Gerrard is biting more than Michael maybe. Michael is an all-round footballer. He can score goals, he sees passes, is a good runner. He can defend. And he has a fantastic temperament. I'm pretty sure one day he will play for England seniors."

Johnson, who had abdominal surgery in October, returns against Tottenham today as City attempt to improve on an indifferent away record. "If you look at the games we've played so far, I don't think we've been stealing points. A little bit lucky against United, to be fair."

And then, almost inevitably, back to England. Would the level of media intrusion that he experienced deter those who could follow. "You can't compare it to Italy or Spain. Here it's crazy. You have to be prepared in this country to have 50 cameramen outside your house. They're following you 24 hours. That's England. You might like it or not. You have to accept it."

If he'd known that, would he have still accepted the offer? "I would have taken it, for sure. I'd recommend the job to everyone, because it's a great job, and to have done it was a great honour." You can't help feeling, though, that he's mightily relieved it's all over. And, after five months at City [not to mention Steve McClaren's year with England] his reputation restored.

Odds job men

The Football Association's chief executive Brian Barwick may make a firm recommendation to the board meeting on Wednesday week about the next England manager. He has to find out if Jose Mourinho is serious about it. Bookmakers are shortening the prices on him and Fabio Capello.

Last week: 7-4 Jose Mourinho, 9-4 Fabio Capello, 6-1 Martin O'Neill, 10-1 Harry Redknapp, 12-1 Steve Coppell, 14-1 Luiz Felipe Scolari.

This week: 11-8 Mourinho, 7-4 Capello, 8-1 O'Neill, 12-1 Scolari, 14-1 Redknapp, 20-1 Guus Hiddink, Marcello Lippi, Rafa Benitez.

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