It cames as a bit of shock when a smiling Sven-Goran Eriksson rolled into Meadow Lane to take up a post with football’s oldest club, a huge one in fact. But in a summer that saw Cristiano Ronaldo sold for £80million, Káka for less than that, Michael Owen go to Old Trafford, and Carlos Tevez join City, this just continues the silly season trend. The ex-England boss … in the fourth tier of it’s football kingdom.
Given his past, you wouldn’t be questioned to suggest Sven has other reasons in mind for his peculiar destination, after biting the dust in Mexico. It might be the alledged £2million a year wage the silky Swede will pocket, or perhaps he read that Nottinghamshire has the prettiest girls in Britain. Apparently. In a recent countdown of Britain’s most hated sportsmen, on one of the high 400 channels, Sven topped the poll as the country’s sports person everyone loves to hate. He did, after all, fail to deliver an international trophy in what was thought to be England’s best opportunity to do so. Those reasons aside, can this odd pairing be a success, or will it end Dumb and Dumber for all involved?
After being taken over by a Middle-Eastern consortium, I was surprised to hear Sven’s name touted to take over role as manager from Ian McParland. But I was even more surprised to see Sven had been appointed, instead, as the Director of Football, and won’t be hitching up along the touchline on the Saturday afternoon. A barrell of media attention will follow the League 2 side in their fight for promotion, but we won’t see wily Sven sat in the dugout, occasionally standing up to point at free space for his strayed full back, before retreating to his seat.
It was said after joining Thaksin Shinawatra’s Man City that Sven had a catalogue of players, price tags and intentions to kick-start his return to club football. He was prepared for business, and indeed he delivered. The shrewd arrivals of Elano, Geovanni and Martin Petrov struck gold with the City faithful, winning their first three games of the 07/08 campaign, plus earning the bragging rights in the local derby. They won ten home games in a row, and finished the season with a respectable 9th place and a UEFA Cup spot, via the Fair Play system. When it emerged he was going to be sacked, the majority of fans raised their support for Sven. But his departure was inevitable, for reasons outside his power.
Sven has experienced success with lower league sides before, back home in Sweden he helped Degerfors gain promotion into their second tier of football. He had a fantastic spell at Göteborg, that included a UEFA Cup triumph and domestic success. He’s seen it all in Italy with Roma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, and Lazio; and had a successful stint at Benfica. His CV is impressive, enough to grant him a position in “the most difficult job in the world”, England coach. He was the man to end 35 years of hurt when he signed up at the FA, but failed on three different occasions, a semi-final spot proving elusive on each attempt.
What can he bring to Notts County? A big name on the day to day running of the club, accompanied by his trusted assistant Tord Grip. He’ll be working closely with McParland in terms of transfers, and will oversee the development of this latest takeover project. Word of new facilities has been said, and a youth academy to match Forest’s hoovering of the local talent. No doubt Sven will be bringing his folder of potential targets in for discussion. He’ll have more connections than the New York metro, set back in Italy, at home in Sweden and scattered all over Europe. The Notts fans can assure themselves of the gems this man can uncover from nothing. Pavel Nedved, Christian Vieiri, Alessandro Nesta all developed under him at Lazio, but on a much larger scale. The arrivals on his return to club football with Man City earned them their best season in years, just about immediately. With the right foundation at the club, from the players, to the boss, to Sven and up into the new leading hierarchy, Notts Country can flourish. It’ll take time, a lot of commitment, but it can be done.
The new relationship got off to winning ways yesterday afternoon as Notts hammered Bradford 5-0 at home.
Sven’s managerial history:Degerfors 1977-78IFK Gothenburg 1979-82Benfica 1982-84Roma 1984-87Fiorentina 1987-89Benfica 1989-92Sampdoria 1992-97Lazio 1997-2001Manchester City 2007-08Mexico 2008-09England 2001-06