The Rehabilitation of Sven-Goran Eriksson
It has been my privilege and great pleasure to stand in for Sven-Goran as his "official double" on countless occasions over recent years.
I have been engaged by The FA as pre-match Official Hospitality entertainer for England games, entertained as additional guest host at live televised broadcasts.
I have worked with 100's of top household names and faces from the world of sport,TV, film, and music, as well as most of the nation's top lookalike/soundalike celebrity impersonators during on stage performance, corporate event and black-tie dinner spots.
I have even been mistaken for the real Swedish charmer and soccer maestro by members of the England football team past and present.
And the point of all that?
Well...err...in all my years of "being Sven", I have never received (on his behalf) anything but warm appreciation, admiration, and support.
Even while the red-top press was in full cry with headlines of "Sack the Swede" and the "sting" stunt with the fake Sheikh, the grass-root public and England supporters remained overwhelmingly solid in their wish to keep my doppelganger in office.
I was approached to head up an "SOS" (save our Sven) campaign by one England FC fan organisation after The FA announced he was due to quit after World Cup 2006, which may be an indication of the real fan's feelings in the face of the media hype.
Sven-Goran took on an England sqaud that had been something of a laughing stock during Euro2000 and was beginning a decidedly "lacklustre" qualifying campaign for World Cup 2002.
He turned it into a consistant side that lost only five competitive games, achieved top qualifying place in all three international tournaments, rose from the wilderness to FIFA No. 4 world ranking, and was only defeated by external circumstances (and the xenophobic elements within an ungrateful media) during his five-and-a-half-years in office.
The joke is that the very same "golden generation" England squad that Sven was accused of missmanaging went on to crash in flames during the qualifying stages for Euro2008 under a lesser manager.
I wonder if anyone doubts that England would be contending had Sven not been finally driven to quit with two years still remaining on the contract that The FA hastely extended early in 2006?
England made a dismal exit from international competition while Manchester City FC appear to be making their own "rise from the wilderness", but the meally-mouthed armchair pundits still haven't got the decency to admit they got it wrong in their much hyped personal and professional attacks on what the rest of the world acclaimed as "England's best ever manager".
The FA even list him as our second most successful coach after Sir Alf Ramsayand (his squad's herioc victory in 1966 amidst an otherwise inconsistent period for England).
Sven-Goran has retained his dignified disdain for the media smear campaign (although it's rumoured that one red-top newspaper made a significant out of court settlement to him for their mischief) and my comedic and "dramatic" interpretation of him has remained (thankfully!) popular.
Sven appears to have had the last laugh on those few venomous critics who did so much in trying to destroy his career and reputation, and who now so grudgingly seem to agree that he wasn't "so bad" after all, especially when Steve McClaren demonstrated so clearly what an amazing success story the "Sven—Becks" years had really been?
For purely selfish reasons, but also as a patriotic England football fan, I am very thankful that Sven did not take up any of the many invitations to become head coach and manager of other nation's international football squads.
From my personal experience, I am convinced that the statistics relating to SGE's term in office with the England national squad lead to no requirement for his "rehabilitation".
I am pleased to see that he has shrugged off the past and carried on with business as usual with his new and rapidly rising Premier League team.
England's loss is Man City's gain and it will be very interesting to see how Fabio Capello progresses with such a consistant bench mark to be judged against, and a British media that shows little sign of relenting in their "death wish" for England's international hopes.
Good luck Fabio (and England)...you will almost certainly need it!
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