Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Eriksson's exit draws mixed reaction in UK

AGENCIES , LONDON

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson leaves the Football Association headquarters in Soho Square, London, after a six-hour meeting on Monday.

PHOTO: EPA

British newspapers were divided yesterday over the wisdom of the FA's decision to end Sven-Goran Eriksson's reign as England coach after this year's World Cup.

Several agreed that the Swede, whose contract had been due to expire in 2008, was now a "lame duck leader."

"However the Football Association dressed it up at its Soho Square offices last night, however much Sven-Goran Eriksson assured the nation that he had the backing of both his players and his bosses, there was a cold and sickening reality," the Independent wrote. "It was that Eriksson is the lame duck leader that now nobody really wants."

The Sun tabloid also had little sympathy, arguing that Eriksson deserved to be sacked "without a penny in compensation."

"We no longer just hope his team conquers the world -- we expect him to do it. He owes that much to the nation that honored him. Big-time," the Sun wrote.

Just days after a British tabloid published comments by Eriksson that he would quit in July after soccer's showpiece event, an embarrassed England Football Association (FA) made sure of it on Monday by cutting his contract by two years.

Eriksson's indiscreet remarks to a News of the World reporter posing as an Arab sheik in Dubai were just the latest brush with the media by the Swede, whose position has often seemed jeopardized by questions over his personality, loyalty and personal life. The FA acted to prevent the controversy from further overshadowing England's World Cup preparations.

During a six-hour meeting on Monday, Eriksson and FA chief executive Brian Barwick agreed to shorten a contract originally set to last to 2008.

The papers disagreed about the size of Eriksson's payoff, with their estimates ranging from ?2.5 million (US$4.45 million) to ?5 million.

Under his ?4 million a year contract, Eriksson would have been entitled to about ?8 million if he had seen the deal through to 2008.

Eriksson marked five years in charge of England as its first foreign coach on Jan. 12. Under Eriksson, England has won 34 matches, drew 15, lost 10, and reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European championship.

The Daily Mail described Monday as "The Day Sven's Luck Ran Out" in its headline and said: "The bill for five years of mediocrity: more than ?20 million. Eriksson is damaged goods and someone who has damaged English football."

The Mirror tabloid, however, took a positive slant and said the decision would not adversely effect England's chances at the World Cup which starts in June in Germany.

"If anything, precedent suggests knowing a manager is due to leave after a tournament inspires players to greater heights more than it impedes them," it wrote.

Both Bobby Robson and Terry Venables had already announced their departures when they led England to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 European championship respectively.

The Times said that the FA had bought itself some valuable time to identify his successor and in the meantime Eriksson remained the best man for the job.

"In his handling of the players Eriksson has shown himself to be a highly competent international manager. Whether competence can win you the World Cup is another matter but the Swede still has the opportunity to depart gloriously in Germany," the Times wrote.

The Daily Telegraph applauded the FA for showing "a welcome tough streak."

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