Sven's emotional return

A little more than 20 years ago an unknown Swedish coach was invited by UEFA Cup winning manager Bobby Robson to sit and further his education on the Portman Road bench, writes Derek Davis.

A little more than 20 years ago an unknown Swedish coach was invited by UEFA Cup winning manager Bobby Robson to sit and further his education on the Portman Road bench, writes Derek Davis.

Tonight Sven-Goran Eriksson occupies that same dug-out as England manager while Sir Bobby is guest of honour in the Ipswich Town directors box.

It is a remarkable rise for Eriksson who, as an average player, had to retire early through injury but won honours in Europe and became the first foreign coach to take charge of our national team.

Eriksson decided he wanted to learn from the best as a coach and turned up in Suffolk to absorb the ways of Robson, who won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup in the late 70s and early 80s with unfashionable Ipswich then went on to take England to the World Cup semi-finals.


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Now Eriksson leads out England, complete with Kieron Dyer, forever an Ipswich favourite, against Croatia, a side which stunned the football world by finishing third in the 1998 World Cup in France.

But he knows failure to qualify for next year's European Championship, or not doing well when they get there could cost him his job.

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Eriksson said: "I'm sorry that in my two and a half years with England my name is linked with Italian, Spanish and English clubs. I'm sorry but I'm also honoured.

"But I'm still here and I want to qualify for Euro 2004.

"In life you never know. If I don't qualify no one will want me any more but let's not talk about not qualifying because that is so negative.

"Let us try to beat Croatia and then qualify for 2004, do a good job and then see what happens."

Sol Campbell is ruled out of tonight's game with injury but he is also in hot water with the FA after his sending-off last weekend and has been charged with violent conduct after an incident in the Community Shield.

He will miss games against Newcastle, Chelsea and Everton and Eriksson said he had talked to Campbell on the phone and tried to explain the complicated rules of the FA but added that if he was not injured he would have played.

Eriksson added: "He was extremely unlucky at the end of last season; it is understandable he is disappointed.

"Sol is not a dirty player but he is a very tough player."

Kieron Dyer will have to wait until later in the game to make a welcome and emotional return to portman Road.

With Campbell and Jonathan Woodgate dropping out of the squad, former Suffolk schoolboy Matthew Upson has been drafted in and could come off the bench to play.

Tonight is a fantastic feather in the cap of Ipswich Town, in particular the behind-the-scenes work of chairman David Sheepshanks, whose stock with the FA, UEFA and FIFA has not dropped despite the financial misfortunes of the club, and Derek Bowden who used to be Adam Crozier's boss before Crozier went to the national governing body, and then left to run the Royal Mail.

England propable starting line-up: James, P Neville, Terry, Ferdinand, A Cole, Beckham, Butt, Gerrard, Scholes, Heskey and Owen.

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