Sven always stays

Sven-Goran Eriksson, like the poor, is always with us. He is a symbol of greed rather than success. Of course, he will survive this latest scandal, just as he survived those of the past. And he will take England to Germany in June — where he had his one major massive success in the qualifiers for the last World Cup in Munich (Germany were sensationally thrashed 5-1 in 2001) — to take England as usual to the quarterfinal.

He won't get them any farther than that. He never does. It happened twice before. In Japan, in the 2002 World Cup, when he could not even save the quarterfinal match against a Brazil reduced for the last half hour to 10 men. An England defender said afterwards, "We needed Winston Churchill but we got Iain Duncan Smith." Meaning the short-lived political mediocrity who briefly led the Conservative Party.

When it came to the quarterfinal of the European Championship in Lisbon in 2004, Eriksson was found wanting again. True, it was a shocking blow when, with England 1-0 up, the irreplaceable Wayne Rooney had to leave the field with a broken foot. But, once again, Eriksson had no idea what to do about it. He put on a couple of plodding substitutes in the shape of Owen Hargreaves and Phil Neville, and the team went out on penalties. Needless to recall David Beckham missed one of them as he had previously missed against France and, in the qualifiers, in Istanbul versus Turkey.

But when deluded — like his stupid agent and silly lawyer — into trusting the phoney sheikh who lured him to Dubai, Eriksson pronounced he was sure that if he gained a �5 million a year contract with Aston Villa, he could himself lure Beckham from Real Madrid.

No huge surprise , since there seems to be a kind of symbiotic relationship, however irrational, between Eriksson and Beckham. He too, like the poor, is always with us, even in the misbegotten and absurd role of a kind of quarter back, clogging up the midfield in games against Wales, where defeat was such a strong option, and notably in Belfast, where Northern Ireland inflicted a humiliating defeat. England should have walked through their qualifying group, but in the end they stumbled through it. And please do not forget that after the sensational win in Munich came a desperately lucky home draw in the final eliminating game against the Greeks, the equaliser from a superbly struck Beckham free kick — yes, at least he can do that — following a non-existent foul, craftily procured by Teddy Sheringham.

Eriksson won't go because the old hobbies of the Football Association have neither the sense nor the guts to get rid of him. Look what happened in the recent past! Three times Eriksson entered into talks with clubs; once with Manchester United, not once but twice with Chelsea. First with the billionaire owner Roman Abramovich himself — with whom he was also seen on the Russian's yacht on one of them in Lisbon harbour in Euro 2004 — then with Peter Kenyon, the grand manipulator and top executive at Stamford Bridge who was previously in charge at Manchester United.

And what happened on this second shameful occasion? Why, the man then top banana at the FA, former Tranmere Rovers midfielder Mark Palios, gave Sven-Goran an extra �1 million a year to stay! Subsequently as we all too well know this delightful duo fell out. They had both been enjoying the favours of a sultry secretary, Faria Alam.

Palios persuaded his press chief, the former sports journalist editor Colin Gibson, to go to the News of the World (the tabloid which orchestrated the most recent fake sheikh sting operation) and try to reason with them to keep Palios' name out of it and expose only Sven. The paper didn't buy that, both men were exposed and Palios had to leave his post. Quite inexplicably, he was compensated with a massive �600,000. Why?

None of this would really matter if Eriksson were capable of doing a truly impressive job, but he so obviously isn't. He makes some oddly weird errors. Most recently, when he picked his team to play that friendly in Geneva against Argentina, he selected Wayne Bridge at left back. A defender who had played just 60 minutes for Chelsea all season and was predictably hopeless. He had to be replaced at half time, but not before his rusty inadequacy had given away a goal.

Eriksson had a previous Bridge moment back in 2002 when Argentina were beaten 1-0 in Sapporo (David Beckham actually converting the essential penalty). Crazily in the final phases, the manager took off Michael Owen — who had procured the penalty just as he had against the same opposition in Saint Etienne in 1998 and who was terrifying their defence — to put on Bridge as a supplementary left-sided defender. Which, of course, handed the initiative to the Argentines who might well have saved the game.

Then there is the matter of Eriksson's indiscretions in Dubai. He declared that Owen had told him, which he probably had, that the only reason he joined Newcastle United this season was for the money, more than he had ever earned.

This is a shocking breach of confidence, and not even the whole story. For Owen knew he had no real future at Real Madrid, and that his old, original club, Liverpool, who had so foolishly let him go, could not afford to buy him back.

Eriksson also called Rio Ferdinand lazy, which may well be true, but hardly should have been said, and opined that Wayne Rooney came, as indeed he does, from a "rough" background. Since the trickster from the News of The World has pulled off such a stunt at least twice before, you might have supposed that one of the silly trio might have cottoned on to what was happening. I've known Athole Still, who was agent for one's opera singing son, for years; shrewd and hardly stupid. Yet, he, too, fell for the deceit.

Meanwhile, the FA are hiding behind the rampart that they do not, at this stage, want to disturb England's World Cup preparations by sacking Sven, paying him off, or whatever. Which wholly begs the question, of what use is it to keep him in a job, which is beyond him? Who would take over, we are asked? To which I would reply, anyone you can think of. It could hardly be anything but an improvement.