More medals, fewer rows – Peter Eriksson fires GB start gun

New team head coach promises changes from Van Commenee era prior to championship debut

Gothenburg

The new GB head coach, Peter Eriksson, was sitting in the Gothia Towers hotel in Sweden's second city, pondering the question of his particular "management style" when Jenny Meadows interjected. "He pulled all our bags off the conveyor belt at the airport," the British team captain said. "Charles didn't do that."

Eriksson was also quick to point out another difference between himself and his predecessor, Charles van Commenee. "It's not part of me to piss people off," he said pointedly. "That's not what I do. I try to help as much as I can."

The last time the British track and field squad were in Sweden, for the European Team Championship two years ago, the baggage had more to do with the row between Commenee and Phillips Idowu, then the world triple jump champion, about the latter's withdrawal from the squad via Twitter – a spat that burgeoned all the way up to the London Olympics.

The European Indoor Championship, which opens in the impressive Scandinavium arena this morning, will be the first test for Eriksson as Van Commenee's successor. It will also be the first international championship challenge for Britain's athletes in this post home-Olympic world.

The 28-strong British squad does not include the golden trio of Mo Farah, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford, but contains sufficient quality to ensure that the Eriksson era gets off to a sparkling start on the medal front. There ought to be at least as many British golds as were won under Van Commenee at the last European indoors in Paris two years ago – two courtesy of Farah and Helen Clitheroe in the men's and women's 3,000m, plus one retrospectively for Meadows in the 800m following the disqualification of the Russian drug offender Yevgeniya Zinurova.

When the team for Gothenburg was announced at the start of last week, Eriksson set a rough medal target of bettering the haul from Paris, which at the time stood at eight overall. It is now nine, the disqualification of another Russian doper, Yuliya Rusanova, having raised Marilyn Okoro from fourth to third in the ever-shifting 800m result from two years ago.

"It's early in the year and setting medal targets is unpredictable," Eriksson said. "I think you have to look at things like: are we doing the best we can? Just the numbers doesn't mean that much to me.

"We have a young team. The average age is 22. And I think a lot of people will surprise here. With the times and results we've seen in this early part of the year, it's very promising."

Eriksson himself might have turned 60 in November, but he is very much a new boy in charge of the able-bodied GB track and field team, having switched to the Olympic side of the UK Athletics programme last autumn following a phenomenally successful time as head coach of Britain's Paralympians.

It should help that his first major assignment happens to be on old home ground for him. Eriksson is a Canadian citizen but he was born and raised in Stockholm and competed for Sweden as a speed skater. "I remember competing in Gothenburg in around 1978," he said. "I haven't actually been to the city since 1995, when one of my athletes, Jeff Adams, won one of the wheelchair races at the World Championships."

That was when Jonathan Edwards hopped, stepped and jumped to his landmark 18.29m triple jump world record in the Ullevi Stadium, across the road from the Scandinavium. It is unlikely that any of the British class of 2013 will be disturbing the world indoor record books over the next three days, but Eriksson can be expected to make his own mark.

Asked how his management style differed to that of the blunt, often confrontational Van Commenee, the avuncular figure replied: "I used to say the biggest difference is that I have a Twitter account. I actually posted a picture for the first time today.

"It's a new era and we are moving forward and trying to develop. I think you need to consult more and more and listen to people and get feedback from whatever we do in order to improve. I consult a lot of people and try to be available for everybody who wants to speak to me any time of the day.

"But if it comes down to tough decisions, then I can make tough decisions. There are certain points where you can't and you have to say 'no'. And no means no. I'm Swedish, and if you say no then there's no way back after that." Even if you have a bag that needs carrying, presumably.

Golden shots: GB hopefuls at European Indoor Championship

Nigel Levine; 400m

Coached by Linford Christie. Should be a strong contender.

Holly Bleasdale; Pole vault

Chorley's finest tops the European rankings and starts favourite.

Robbie Grabarz; High jump

Olympic bronze medallist aiming to complete Euro outdoor-indoor double.

Women's 4x400m relay

Olympic silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu is in a formidable quartet.

Perri Shakes-Drayton; 400m

The 400m hurdler is in great shape on the flat.

Asha Phillip; 60m

Former world youth champion is starting to fulfil her potential.

Men's 4x400m relay

Levine, Michael Bingham and Co could take some stopping.

Michael Rimmer; 800m

The in-form Merseysider tops the European rankings.

Jenny Meadows; 800m

Back in shape after injury but Yelena Kotulskaya of Russia starts favourite.

Shara Proctor; Long jump

Bronze at 2012 world indoors.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'