Thaksin refuses to back Eriksson after late slump

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The Independent Football

Thaksin Shinawatra will be told by Manchester City's hierarchy this weekend that sacking Sven Goran Eriksson would be a disastrous move, following the Thai billionaire's failure to dispel suggestions yesterday that he might be about to do so.

Questioned at a business conference in Dubai about weekend reports that he is ready to replace Eriksson with Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, Thaksin said: "There are no plans at the moment. We will have to evaluate at the end of the season." City's chairman added that he was "not happy" with the performance of the club in the second half of the season.

Eriksson was said to be "relaxed", though bemused, by Thaksin's comments. The two have not spoken since mid-March when, in the words of a source close to the Swede, their conversation was "healthy and cordial". They will presumably discuss yesterday's statement when the Thai arrives in Manchester for Sunday's match with Portsmouth.

After being alerted to the weekend reports, Eriksson was prepared to put them down to chatter between agents and Thaksin's acolytes – rather than the billionaire himself, who has been in Thailand for his latest court appearance this week. Yesterday's reports are more difficult to explain, though the view from sources close to Eriksson is that they may be a result of naivety on the part of an owner unaccustomed to the way that every soundbite is analysed in football.

If Thaksin is intending to bring in Scolari, who will leave the Portuguese set-up after the European Championships, Eriksson is said to be familiar enough with the uncertainties of management to be sanguine about taking his pay off and leaving. The cost of removing him would be an estimated £1m.

Eriksson is nine months into a £2.5m-a-year deal at City. But there is also a view at the club that Eriksson has taken City to new heights, despite his side's disappointing form since the turn of the year. City's win at Sunderland on Saturday took them to a record points tally in the Premier League.

Resistance would certainly be as trenchant from City fans as from chief executive Alistair Mackintosh. Kevin Parker, general secretary of the official City supporters' club yesterday described the notion of replacing Eriksson and continuing the managerial merry-go-round which City thought belonged in the past as "frightening". Parker added: "The fans are actually happier with the manager than the chairman – and that's nothing to do with anyone being against Thaksin. He should hear the voice of the supporters and ensure that Eriksson keeps his job."

Recently, the words of manager and chairman have hinted at a slight cooling of the relationship. Thaksin's declaration last month that he had returned to Britain to "tighten some bolts" prompted Eriksson to retort that "if he has some magic ways to concede less goals and score more, then he's more than welcome to tell me or the players." There also seem to be differences over Thaksin's belief that a superstar signing is needed to fill the City of Manchester stadium. Eriksson feels this policy is misguided.

Sources at City stressed yesterday that Thaksin, who insisted in his Dubai press conference that he did not know nor had ever met Scolari, had not referred directly to Eriksson in his summary of who would have to come and go this summer. Thaksin said: "We'll probably have to sell some players and buy some. We need some defenders, midfielders... midfielders are the key. We have some good players but we need more."

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