Jawad Iqbal Jawad Iqbal

In praise of Sven-Goran Eriksson

Sven-Goran Eriksson (Credit: Getty images)

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has revealed that he has cancer and, ‘at best’, about a year to live. The sad news of his terminal illness prompted an understandable outpouring of support across football.

The official England team account posted on X/ Twitter: ‘Sending our love, Sven’. Meanwhile, ex-England captain Wayne Rooney paid tribute to Eriksson as ‘a brilliant coach and a special person. Loved and respected by everyone. We’re all with you Sven, keep fighting.’

It is now largely forgotten how controversial it was back in 2001 to give the England job to a foreign coach

It was under Eriksson that Rooney made his England debut in 2003, before bursting on to the international scene proper at the 2004 Euros. At the time, Rooney was just the latest addition to the so-called ‘Golden generation’ of English players, consisting of the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who were poised to return the national team to past glories. All they needed was a footballing Svengali to guide them to the promised land – and Sven was deemed the man.

Looking back now, it is painfully obvious that way too much was expected of him. After all, wasn’t managing England deemed the most impossible job in football? Sven took over the national team in 2001 from Kevin Keegan, who resigned unexpectedly after losing to Germany. So much weight was placed on the shoulders of the quietly spoken and urbane Swede, who spoke English with a cultured accent and had actually won things.

How daft it all seems now. Why did anyone think it would end in anything other than the usual failure?

What did the suits at the Football Association see in him? He had not been an elite-level player, but then few great managers are.

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Written by
Jawad Iqbal

Jawad Iqbal is a broadcaster and ex-television news executive. Jawad is a former Visiting Senior Fellow in the Institute of Global Affairs at the LSE

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