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 April 19, 2002 | 1350 IST

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Eriksson at the helm of England's transition

After an abysmal Euro 2000 and a bad start to the World Cup qualifying campaign, the then England manager Kevin Keegan admitted his side could not pass, follow instructions or keep possession.

Eighteen months later, with Sven-Goran Eriksson in charge, England are looking forward to the World Cup finals with a high level of confidence after qualifying as group winners.

In a book published on Wednesday, called Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson Way, two leading management experts examine the impact Eriksson has had on the national team and spell out his recipe for success.

In accordance with Swedish management styles, Eriksson's calm but positive approach has been transmitted to the players and his tendency to stand back allows the team to develop and make decisions for themselves.

"Eriksson's approach is not to bark orders from the touchline -- it is to work through his strategy in consultation with the players," authors Julian Birkinshaw and Stuart Crainer say in the book.

Before Eriksson, the stereotypical English club manager was a passionate, colourful and loud individual.

In contrast, the Swede comes across as quiet, thoughtful, calm and intelligent. He speaks four languages and is a true cosmopolitan.


Unlike previous managers, such as Keegan and Glenn Hoddle, Eriksson had not been a great player. At 28 he started coaching at a Swedish third division side as assistant manager to Tord Grip.

Following promotion he joined Benfica and then Roma, Fiorentina and Sampdoria before taking over at Lazio.

In three years of Eriksson's reign they won the European Cup Winners Cup, the Italian Cup -- twice -- and the Serie A title.

While England were contemplating sitting out the World Cup and a future that involved friendlies against Andorra, Eriksson was at the pinnacle of club football.

When Keegan resigned following a dismal 1-0 defeat to Germany in October 2000, Eriksson was approached and he signed to become the new England manager.

The English Football Association received a barrage of criticism because of his nationality but the book argues that this is his strength.

"One of the distinctive things about Eriksson is his international pedigree," the book says. "Coaching in Sweden, Portugal and Italy before coming to England gave him a broad diversity of experiences to draw on".

English players agree. "One of his strengths has been to focus on performance," Gareth Southgate told reporters before a friendly in March.

"Mr Eriksson has been able to distinguish between patriotism and performance more comfortably than in the past."


Keegan was renowned for being highly patriotic and passionate but he quit after admitting he was not up to the job.

The book, while comparing Eriksson to leading Swedish business leaders, also highlights his handling of the players and suggests that this has earned him greater respect.

His assistants Grip and Steve McLaren do most of the day-to-day coaching while Eriksson stands back and observes. He prefers not to give a pep talk prior to the game but instead talks quietly with each player.

"We don't really know him," Southgate said. "This manager has kept us more at arm's length. It's a strength as a manager if players don't know what makes him tick...It means he can detach himself when it comes to making decisions."

The fact that he has not coached in the English premier league also means he has no bias, leaving him to select players on merit alone and this was reflected in the selection of Southampton's Wayne Bridge and Charlton's Chris Powell.

The book also suggests that, in keeping with the Swedish personality, Eriksson can cope with change. However this will be tested to the limit if his talismanic captain, David Beckham, is ruled out of the World Cup following his broken foot last week.


Eriksson's style is compared to Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and Liverpool's Gerard Houllier and the book suggests his appointment was made all the easier following the Frenchmen's success in England.

It quotes the author of The Power Game, Gerry Griffin, as saying: "Wenger distinguishes himself from the gum-chewing, high-blood-pressure antics of classic British managers such as Alex Ferguson by presenting a cool, intellectual veneer to the tabloid hacks looking to trip him up."

With Arsenal and Liverpool taking the edge in the current title race over Ferguson's Manchester United, and with a new-look England team transformed from the one that crashed out of Euro 2000, the tide could be turning for England's favourite sport.

When Houllier joined Liverpool he was shocked by the level of drinking that was ever-present in the dressing rooms of England's top clubs.

"As soon as a young player gets into the first team, he thinks that to show he's a man he has to drink," Houllier said.

Through Eriksson's discipline the days of players heavily drinking are long gone with the game now dominated by healthy and dedicated players such as Beckham, Michael Owen and Steven Gerard.

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