SVEN'S ENGLAND ENDGAME

Finally, the lobster, the caviar and the GBP900-worth vintage champagne did the trick. After being fed all these in Dubai by the fake `News of the World' sheikh, Eriksson let slip quite a few which would have given former England number one goalkeeper David `Calamity' James a complex. It gave the weak-hearted Football Association (FA) the strength to tell the Swede that he would no longer be needed as manager after the World Cup. It also gave the lobby in English football, which has loathed the idea of a foreign manager for these five years, the occasion to pop its own champagne bottles.

Eriksson, who was given a GBP4.5m a year contract till the end of Euro 2008 by former FA chief executive Mark Palios in 2004, was told by Palios's successor, Brian Barwick, that he would be getting a compensation of GBP3m, one-third of what the Swede would have got had both parties seen out the contract. Eriksson and FA made noises that the `parting' was `amicable', but football aficionados clearly saw through the bureaucratic-speak. Eriksson had stated before the sting operation that he would take a decision on his future plans only after his team's World Cup campaign ended. Eriksson says that matters of his future employment would not affect England, as only his agent would deal with the negotiations. "It is important to stress just how committed I am to achieving success this summer," said Eriksson. "I care passionately about this job and I want everyone to know that."

But, many reminded that success is as much a function of motivation levels of players and the degree to which they respect the manager as it is about the manager's commitment. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wondered whether Eriksson would have any influence at all in the dressing room in Germany given that the FA would have announced the name of the Swede's successor before the World Cup. However, former England central defender Terry Butcher said that many players would be fired up for the event to give Sven the perfect parting gift. Butcher, who was a member of the World Cup 1990 squad, reminisced that the adrenaline levels of the 1990 team members were high as they wanted to win the big one for manager Sir Bobby Robson, who had announced before the tournament that it would be his last as England manager.

N. U. Abilash