Why Eriksson will improve England

By Myles Palmer

Tonight is the best night to play Spain because its Barcelona v Real Madrid this weekend.

They will not want to mix it in a friendly with a serious match only three days away.

I always liked Eriksson when I met him with Benfica, Sampdoria and Lazio, although he picked some silly teams at Lazio.

I’m really glad Sven and his sidekick Tord Grip are here.

They know football and will soon figure out what should be done.

Eriksson will not have a problem with the players. They will like him.

He will not have a problem with the fans, who will also love him.

Last Friday’s Hold The Back Pub Show, where the pundits all talk at once, showed how proprietorial the hacks are about their England team.

But how many of them demanded Keegan should quit after Euro 2000 ? I said Mighty Mouse was useless when he announced his squad at Wembley after the Ukraine game.

ANR readers may recall that I bet Garth Crooks £10 that night that Keegan would not win a game at Euro 2000. I lost the bet (and I still have not paid Garth as I have not seen him lately) but I was one of the first to realise

how completely clueless Keegan was.

Eriksson has had an astonishing coaching career. He told his Italian assistant at Roma, years ago, that he wanted to manage England one day.

Now he is here and I wish him well.

Until Monday he had never watched England train. And their skills will not have hugely impressed him. England lack craftsmanship. But their match play is better than their training.

We have no player who could have scored the goal that Zidane stroked past Kahn last night in Paris.

But we have some good players, like Barmby, Campbell, Heskey, Beckham, Scholes and Brown. Sven can organise them. Keegan could not.

Writing quickie late night opinion pieces is fun, of course, but I shall not indulge myself by guessing Eriksson’ team.

All I want to say is : I trust Sven and Tord. They know football. I’m sure they will play 4-4-1-1 in every game.

I love Joe Cole because he is two-footed and fun to watch. He might be the best since Gazza.

If Joe Cole is ready at 19, Sven will start him. If he is not ready, he will be a sub. Simple, nothing to worry about.

Football managers all make mistakes.They pick the wrong teams and the sign bad players. The best manager is the one which makes the fewest mistakes.

That is why I think Sven will be good. He is a safe pair of hands. Even when he gets it wrong, we will not notice too much. He is canny,experienced, with real tactical knowledge, used to handling temperamental stars, and able to demonstrate grace under pressure.

So I am not worried about Sven-Goran Eriksson. I am only worried about the media.

I’m worried about how stupid the press will prove to be. And how soon the Venables groupies might turn on him.

Villa Park? The atmosphere will be better than Wembley.That should be liberating.

Remember : the result of a friendly does not matter. What matters is that Sven can be sure about nine of the team who will face Finland. That does matter. A 1-1 draw is the most common result in this kind of game.

We know that Helguera is almost as good as Vieira, that Raul is lethally accurate, that Luis Enrique is so hot right now he might burst into flames in the middle of a muddy puddle.

But Casillas (25.05.81)is an even younger keeper than Paul Robinson(15.10.79).Centreback Abelardo is vulnerable.

It will be interesting. I can’t wait !

27th February 2001.