Sven-Göran Eriksson became the seventh manager to leave Leicester City in four-and-a-half years. Milan Mandaric and the club's owners need to learn that city wasn't built in a day.
Live by the sword, die by the sword. Maybe that’s a little over dramatic, but Sven-Göran Eriksson can’t have many complaints about his departure from Leicester City, he knew what he was getting himself into when he joined the club.
Let’s face it, his predecessor, Paulo Sousa, was given little more than three months to settle in and was even given a vote of confidence by the-chairman Milan Mandarić just three days before he got the boot (and after a home win as well).
Mandarić had said: “We have a long-term plan and Paulo is part of that,” demonstrating that his definitions of “long-term” and “part of” differ drastically from mine and those of most other literate people.
But what the hell? Sven, eh? At the time it was hard to know whether to consider his appointment a coup or a disaster waiting to happen.
With all the goings on behind Nancy’s back, the fake sheikhs and the flirting with Manchester United and Chelsea, it’s easy to forget this was a manager who had lifted the UEFA Cup, the Cup Winners Cup, the Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and titles in Portugal and Sweden.
Were we getting the man with the Midas touch, who had won trophy after trophy with clubs across Europe before leading England to three consecutive quarter finals, a feat only bettered by Sir Alf Ramsey (oh for Sven last summer)?
Or, were we getting the man who left Manchester City ‘by mutual consent’ and was then sacked by Mexico after winning just one of his last seven competitive games – a move that prompted a ‘victory rally’ attended by 30,000 irate Mexicans?
I guess you could say of his career: “first half good, second half not so good”, but when he came to the Walkers Stadium we were firmly rooted in the bottom three with just two wins (and six defeats) from 10 games, so we weren’t complaining.
Just like his career, Eriksson’s time at the King Power (nee Walkers) Stadium had two distinct phases, defined by his recruitment policy. Eriksson began by using the loan system to his advantage to recruit a string of players from Premier League clubs despite the transfer window being shut.
Martin On'Neill's like like an ex-wife you still get on with, you should never go back for good.
It was an inventive policy and on the back of goals from the likes of Everton’s Yakubu plus solid defensive performances from Chelsea’s Patrick van Aanholt the team climbed out of the bottom three and at the turn of the year went on a run of seven wins and a draw in eight games. They also pushed eventual winners Man City all the way in a scintillating FA Cup third round tie that went to a replay.
By the end of February the club was in seventh a point off the play offs and we were the team to beat, an invitation teams started taking up on a regular basis. We stuttered and never reached higher than that. Still, given where we were when the Swede arrived there was a lot of promise for the following season.
The problem with loan signings is, eventually they all b****r off back to their actual clubs and that’s exactly what happened in the close season, so Eriksson set about re-building the side, not that he didn’t have the cash to do it. Backed by the club’s new owners - a Thai-based consortium - he splashed out circa £10m on the likes of Matt Mills, Kaspar Schmeichel and Jermaine Beckford. He even courted Owen Hargreaves and talked of bringing in David Beckham.
With that kind of cash (The Foxes have been branded the Manchester City of the Championship), some might say that Eriksson can have no excuses for his side having their a***s handed to them by Millwall at the weekend and, yes, it was a poor performance, but his side is still just two points outside the play-offs and five off an automatic place.
More importantly than that these projects take time to develop (and as I’m sure Eriksson, who won trophies with both Lazio and Roma would tell you, that city wasn’t built in a day). Or you could ask his former protégé, Roberto Mancini; third place and the FA Cup last year might turn into a much bigger prize this season. Or, Sir Alex Ferguson; how many years without success did he endure when he arrived at Old Trafford?
Giving one of the most experienced and successful managers in European football over £10m to spend then sacking him after 13 games with the season’s target still well in sight is madness, but that is the way of football these days
So, who’s in line to replace Eriksson? Well, amazingly Mr Charisma Bypass, Alan Shearer, is third favourite. Most of the rest of the country might want him in gainful employment as a manager so they don’t have to endure his inane brand of punditry but that is not a sacrifice I or any other Leicester fan would be willing to make, not least because he fell over when Neil Lennon head-butted his foot.
Martin O’Neill is favourite, but – I’ll whisper this - I have to ask if he’s really the right man for the job. Yes, there’s history and sentiment. Yes, he did a bloody good job last time round but both the club and, more importantly he, are different now. Maybe I’m being unfair, but he’s no longer the up-and-coming promotion specialist he was 15 years ago. It’s like an ex-wife you still get on with, you should never go back for good.
Whoever gets the job, at least next Saturday Sven can forget about West Ham and Big Sam, put his feet up and watch Nancy strut her stuff on the dance-floor. Who would have thought he’d get told to Foxtrot Oscar before her?
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