Date: 8th June 2007 at 1:34pm
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Another week of international football has been unable to pass without several members of the English media sticking the knife into their national side’s former manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Just what is the pre-occupation with slaughtering this guy? What exactly has he done to deserve it? Not an awful lot as far as I can see.

Eriksson’s record in competitive international matches for England would compare pretty favourably with others who’ve had the job in recent (and perhaps not so recent) years. Just remember, he took over when the English national side was at one of their lowest ever points and moulded them into a team that qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup in the space of a couple of years. During this time they recorded a fantastic 5-1 in Germany, a match that looked set to become a contender to rival the 1966 World Cup Final for the title of ‘most-talked about match in the history of sport’ before ‘anti-Sven’ hysteria gripped the nation. Did he achieve too much too early?

It all boils down to the usual problem with the English doesn’t it? Unrealistic expectations. The belief that it is their divine right to be winning every tournament that they enter is almost a double-edged sword for them when it comes to international week. On the plus side, the sense of occasion and hype that surrounds an England match can be fantastic – it’s like the whole country gets up for the game, no matter who the opposition are it seems these days. But the problem is, a lot of this is artificially generated by an over-expectant and fiercely critical media, so when things don’t go quite as they build us all up to ‘expect’ (which translates as what they want people to expect), the level of public outcry is unbelievable.

The way that Sven is perceived by many English football fans these days really does tell you all you need to know about the power of the media in this country (and probably all countries to be honest). If they’d kept their feet on the ground and reported upon his team’s achievements objectively, making unbiased assessments of the resources available to him and his opposition, there is no way that he’d have a poor reputation.

Now I’m not going to tell you that England should have no right to expect their team to do well in international football, as there is no doubt that they have and have had some excellent football players at their disposal. But just because one or two of them are arguably (and I mean, VERY arguably) in the ‘world-class’ category, does not necessarily mean that their team as a whole is at this level.

Think back to last year’s World Cup in Germany: the media were basically trying to tell us that anything less than an England win would represent failure in that tournament. How exactly did they work that out? They pointed to the fact that they had players like Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham, players who would walk into any team in the world. Even assuming that this is true (and it’s highly debatable that it is), they clearly did not consider the fact that at least five or six other teams in the tournament had a least the same number of players in their team of a similar, if not higher standard. So that being the case, is qualifying for the quarter-finals not just about the level that they should be at anyway? If you want to look at something classed as a ‘failure’, just think about Argentina, whose first eleven were practically all household names and established stars of the game. The fact that they were eliminated when they were, albeit by the impressive hosts, was surely much more of a failure than England only reaching the quarter-final?

Generally the England manager’s job is not one that’s ever going to be easy and unless someone actually does go and win the World Cup (and everything else for that matter) for them, then it’s probably always going to be this way. But it does seem to have gone a step further than normal with Eriksson, whose treatment in the Press has probably been even worse than the ‘turnip-head’ nonsense that the beleaguered Graham Taylor had to put up with back in the ’90s. I wonder if it’s simply because he isn’t an Englishman and in a similar way to the Scottish press with Vladimir Romanov, they have ended up adopting something of a xenophobic attitude towards him because he didn’t actually win anything. Who knows.

And as for all the rubbish about how much money Sven was being paid, well, was that his fault? If he was such a poor appointment for the money, then why not point the finger at the people who hired him instead? But even having said that, you could have paid the world’s best manager double what Sven was on and he still probably wouldn’t have won the World Cup with England. There’s a phrase I often hear at Hearts games in reference to our poor resources in comparison to the Old Firm, and the watered down version is this: ‘you can only urinate with the appendage you’ve got’.

It’s time that the English media made note of this and tried to start being a tad more realistic in the future, otherwise they’ll just never give their team or their manager a chance.


10 Replies to “Why Do England Hate Sven?”

  • Wise words MrH, but wasted breath I fear. I wonder what it will take to bring England’s football media down to earth? For Scotland, it was Argentina in 1978 (“and we’ll really shake them up, when we win the World Cup”… replaced in 1998 by “don’t come home too soon”). England have had many failures before and since, but somehow they don’t seem to get it. It’s worse down here, believe me. The last World Cup – they might not have bothered to play, because according to the media for the preceding six months England had already won it.

  • Yeah some good points made here, but they’ll never get it. Actually, you find that most English people are a bit embarrassed by the way the media always builds them up.

  • They’re doing it again with David Beckham as well. 12 months ago he was being crucified – now listen to them.

  • Absolutely no grounds to suggest its xenophobia (although I suspect Vogts and Romanov were and is)
    Every english manager since Ramsey has been vilified and hung out to dry by the press (Hoddle, Keegan,Robson, Wilkinson, Taylor, McClaren etc etc) Its the national sport.
    Erikson’s problems were i) His indulgent and very public indiscretions ii) His percieved lack of ‘passion’ and a tactical naivety at the highest level. iii) The obscene amount of money he commanded.
    I agree MrH his record is up there.

    The english football public knows these boys are second level and overhyped. They also understand that they are technically exposed and need to play a high tempo and aggressive game to compete at the top – which is of course usually impossible during the summer
    tournaments. An additional factor which undermines them is the intensive rigour of the premiership and european season, by the time the tournaments come around they are wiped.

  • Yeah the domestic league is intense, but it’s a multi-national league now and it’s not just England players who are affected by that. It’s also very over-rated and perhaps as a knock-on effect, the English lads in there get even more over-hyped as a result. As for Eriksson’s salary, they didn’t have to pay him that did they? If they felt he’d asked for too much, then they shouldn’t have kept him on, simple as that. I also don’t agree with the lack of passion thing – every individual is different. Does it really matter whether or not he’s jumping up and down like an idiot on the bench or not? I don’t think so – it doesn’t mean he’s any less passionate, it’s just a different personality.

  • Have to say though, I don’t agree with foreign managers being allowed to be honest. They may as well allow foreign players to play for countries as well!

  • I said the ‘perceived’ lack of passion didn’t endear him to the public or the press. Yes, the premiership is global but we have noted european teams and players suffering from fatigue in past tournaments. We have also noted the increased marginalisation of international football for the top players. When you talk about hype, surely the one media outlet with the most at stake here is sky -is it not the case that they routinely overhype scottish cup games, championship and even non-league games? This is their business, no?
    On the salary, people in this country took exception to it, it was obscene. If you’re going to take that kind of money keep your mouth shut, your dick in your pants and deliver on the pitch.

    and nonleague matches

  • Beckham, polarises opinion big time. I don’t think anyone has shifted their position here – for me he is a self-serving prat, with one redeeming feature, a decent right foot. He’s already caused a storm within Galaxy by seeming to prioritise england – lets be honest, he had a couple more seasons left in european football – but didn’t fancy it.

  • SKY do hype up anything they cover, yes. And they do it incredibly well as a majority of people in the country believe a lot of it. As for Beckham, I’ve always liked the guy actually. Seems like a decent enough bloke and a good, honest professional. Was never the player he was made out to be, but still a fantastic asset for anyone he’s played for.

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