Sven-Goran Eriksson says he was astounded by the amount of entertainment England players demanded during his time as Three Lions boss.
The Swede, who had previously managed in Italy and Portugal as well as his home country before becoming England’s first foreign manager in 2001, led England to World Cups in 2002 and 2006 and the 2004 European Championships.
Eriksson says England had the best team in 2006, though his side went out at the quarter-final stage on penalties to Portugal after a young Wayne Rooney had been sent off. But, even 13 years on from the end of his tenure, he is still amused to think of England players’ need for constant distraction.
“One of the biggest surprises was that English players have to be entertained,” he told The Times.
“Always. Italian footballers can take a coffee and sit for two hours talking, laughing. English players, no.
“I remember one of the first away games, [David] Beckham came and said, ‘Tomorrow afternoon we have no training. Can we go shopping?’ I said ‘Shopping? Football players — shopping?!’ He said, ‘Yeah, we go to the mall.’”
“The World Cup in Japan... when I went to see [the hotel] they explained, ‘This is the playing room.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, the playing room? Don’t we play outside?’ They said no. The playing room.
“And it was amazing what the FA had done. It was like going to Las Vegas. I said, ‘But this is for children.’ They said, ‘But they [the players] are children.’ Incredible.”
With the likes of Rooney, Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in his 23-man squad for the 2006 World Cup, Eriksson was under pressure to deliver and the quarter-final exit evidently still stings.
“I couldn’t — still can’t — see any team better than England in that World Cup,” he said.
“We were unlucky with Rooney [being sent off against Portugal] but in my time the pressure was too high.
“The expectation when you went to those tournaments — you win and if you don’t win it’s sh*t. And too much talk about the Golden Generation. They were good but other teams had good players too.
“That, and penalties, was England’s problem. My biggest regret is not taking a mental coach [to Germany] but I was very confident and convinced [England would win]. I remember Roberto Mancini phoned me, he said, ‘Sven, I’m putting my money on England’ and I told him, ‘You are right.’”