Sven Goran-Eriksson on England memories & turning down Manchester United
We recently sat down with former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson to talk all things England and the pressure that came with managing the Three Lions.
Speaking to us ahead of his England versus Germany Ladbrokes 5-A-Side selection, the Swede looked back on his England memories and things he could have changed during his time in charge…
Taxi drivers in England still ask me about that night in Germany
“It’s a beautiful feeling, and I’m very honoured that the English people made songs about me and that famous night in Germany. I’m very lucky to say I was there; I saw it, I was the manager. It’s one of those results that shouldn’t have been possible.
“It’s a night which fans remember so well; they remember where they were, who they were with, which pub they were in – and I got to play a part in the occasion.
“Still to this day, when I take a taxi in England, it’s the first thing drivers ask me about: “Sven, do you remember that night? Germany one, England five.”
“It’s a huge part of English football history, but the team can write another chapter tomorrow.
“Of course, I’ve heard the songs about me and the team – I’ve heard them a lot. I don’t listen to them so much these days; I can’t find them for whatever reason. But it makes you very happy, and it was a fun way for everyone to be involved in our success. I felt honoured; of course I did.”
On the current England squad
“I worked with some fantastic players during my time as England manager, and similarly to Gareth Southgate now, there are so many important players across the whole team.
“I would say that there are two standout current players for me that I’d have liked to have worked with, Phil Foden being the first. He’s young, he has a lot of qualities; he can do everything and he’s only going to get better.
“But Harry Kane still has many years left at the top of his game. When you have those born goalscorers, they are always very important. I had Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney. Harry is another one.
“Not only is he scoring goals, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, good in the air. He makes like very difficult for opponents and I think Mats Hummels will struggle to deal with him tomorrow.”
On Harry Kane
“If you leave a club like Tottenham and want a step up, you can only really go to a handful of clubs.
“Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, maybe Manchester United. The others, are they bigger than Tottenham? Tottenham is a great, great club, so where do you go?
“If Harry Kane does leave, it won’t be about money, it’ll be to win trophies. It’s not easy to find a bigger club than Tottenham. I hope he stays at Tottenham because it makes life very difficult for the club as he’s so difficult to replace.
“But, of course, you can understand his decision to leave if he has an offer from one of those bigger clubs I mentioned.”
Why I never changed my system for England
“During my time as England manager, we almost never changed our system. It was 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. The reason why I did that was simple: first of all I liked the system, but secondly, I couldn’t find any team in England at the time who operated with three in the middle and three up-front.
“We preferred to use a system the players were used to, to make it easier for them to adapt. But today you have teams in the Premier League playing three at the back, one holding midfielder, three forwards; the players are much more used to playing in different systems.”
I should have recruited a mental coach for penalty shootouts
“It was fantastic to see England win on penalties in 2018 against Colombia. I was very happy after that game. I think Gareth Southgate employed a mental coach for that scenario and I saw in the newspapers this morning that Sweden are doing something similar this year.
“That was my mistake; I didn’t do it because I thought we were big enough and experienced enough to deal with the pressure, but in hindsight I should have done it.
“It wasn’t the normal thing to do all those years ago, but I had worked in Sweden and Italy with mental coaches at club level. That was a mistake from me.”
The free-kick against Greece
“If you remember that game against Greece at Old Trafford, I think David Beckham had missed four free-kicks in the game before he eventually scored.
“I’d brought Teddy Sheringham on in the second-half, and I remember when we got that free-kick at the end of the game, Sheringham wanted to take it. He probably should have taken it because Beckham had already missed four chances.
“But David, as the captain, said no. We were lucky he made that decision. That was our ticket to the World Cup. I was very, very happy. I became crazy for a moment, I think. I was screaming, and that’s something I never do.
“I was so happy because of how the fans welcomed me after Kevin Keegan, and they wanted to make the World Cup, and that goal ensured we got to do that.
We didn’t play well at all in the game. We’d won in Germany, and then we were struggling at home against Greece – but that’s football. You never know what’s going to happen. That goal was extremely important.”
On turning down Manchester United
“When you talk about football, on the pitch and off the pitch, the English fans are unrivalled. You cannot work in a better country when it comes to supporters and the passion they show.
“You have it today; everybody wants to come to work in the Premier League, whether you’re a player or a coach. It’s the most watched league in the world. In Sweden, if you meet someone who is interested in football, they’re more likely to say their favourite team is an English one, not a Swedish one. If you ask 100 Swedish people their favourite team, 90 will answer with an English side.
“During my time as England manager, I had contact with Manchester United and then Chelsea. But it’s almost impossible to leave your contract early as the England national manager to then go on and take over an English club. If you leave England, people will not look very good at you.
“There were discussions with those two clubs, but they never led to anything, and I’m proud to have stuck to my decision to stay in charge of the national team.
“To live and work in England for as long as I did was fantastic. You can’t do much about the weather – especially in Manchester. I don’t think I took my winter coat off once!”