A trip to Thailand may have given Sven-Goran Eriksson’s career a fillip, but it has not always been plain sailing for former soccer A-listers in the “Land of Smiles.”
The Swedish former England boss seems to have worked his old magic with new club BEC Tero Sasana, who hit form with a 7-1 romp over TTM Phichit last week and have only lost once since he joined as technical director last month.
Eriksson, whose cluttered resume includes Notts County, Leicester City and Ivory Coast since departing the England job in 2006, has now been mentioned for the vacant Blackburn Rovers post by a senior official at the Premier League club.
Big names who have turned their careers around in Thailand are rare. Robbie Fowler, Bryan Robson and Peter Reid are among those who have tried their luck in the balmy Asian tourist spot, with mixed results.
Fowler, known simply as “God” to Liverpool fans for his goalscoring exploits, failed to capture the hearts of Muangthong United during an ill-fated spell in the Thai Premier League (TPL).
Discord between the English player-manager and his Thai teammates is rumored to have led to him leaving earlier this year, just over six months after signing.
In an cryptic tweet on Feb. 1, Fowler said: “The president and CEO of Mtutd [Muangthong United] know why I quit and it certainly was nothing to do with results.”
Robson was appreciated as a solid, if unremarkable manager for his two-year spell with the national team which ended last year, but the former England captain is also remembered for unflattering undercover documentary footage filmed in a Bangkok bar in which he advises a reporter posing as a businessman how to make large profits out of British soccer.
Zesh Rehman, the towering defender who was one of the first British Asian stars in the English Premier League, had a better time at Muangthong, winning the fans’ affection, before moving to Hong Kong champions Kitchee this year.
Eriksson has swatted away suggestions that his two-month contract, worth a reported US$100,000, is little more than a pay day in the sun after poor results at his most recent clubs.
“It is a big challenge. Football is getting better and the interest in football is higher. Of course, they want the level to improve for the national team and at club level also,” he said after his arrival.
Eriksson is also in Bangkok at a turbulent time for Thai soccer after a parliamentary investigation was launched into alleged fraud and illegal profiteering that could bring down the Football Association of Thailand.
“Whatever the outcome of the latest investigations, allegations of corruption, unethical profiteering and conflicts of interest can be found at every level of the game in Thailand,” the newspaper said in an investigative report.
However, such claims have not stopped a steady inflow of talent to the TPL. Young, fit players who struggle to break into the upper echelons of their own competitive leagues are eager to take up offers to make their mark in the TPL.
“I love it here. People are friendly and easy going. My wife and son love it too,” said Welshman Michael Byrne, who plies his trade with TPL side Chainat.
Eriksson has been welcomed with open arms by the Thai soccer community, including the national team coach Winfried Schaefer.
“This is very good for Thai football. We need a good coach like him,” Schaefer said. “Sven is an experienced coach and Thai players can learn a lot from him.”