Your questions answered by football's biggest legends
Who were the footballers you most admired as a kid? Is it true you were a Liverpool fan?
Aman Pattar, Peterborough
Yes, it’s true, I did support Liverpool as a young boy and well into my teens. We used to get a lot of English football on Swedish TV when I was growing up and Liverpool had a great team at that time. Along with my father, who had supported them for many years from afar, I began to follow Liverpool and I travelled to England several times to watch them as I got older, especially in the winter when there’s not much football in Sweden. In later years I became good friends with [Liverpool manager from 1983 to 1985] Joe Fagan and I had the honour of visiting the Boot Room, which was fantastic and I went to see them train quite a lot during my early twenties. I never got to stand on The Kop, though, which is a pity.
What on earth possessed you to take up ski jumping as a child?
Michelle Thomas, Leeds
We had a ski jump in the village where I was born and I always wanted to have a go as a youngster so eventually I did. It was great fun and I competed in local competitions for six or seven years, with my longest jump probably around 65 metres – quite modest when you consider the top ski jumpers of today can reach distances of 200m! I’m not sure if I could have out-jumped Eddie the Eagle or not – he was special wasn’t, he? I enjoyed other winter sports, too, such as ice hockey and in the winter, we used to ski to school because it was the quickest way of getting there. Other than that, there were no indoor sports halls for us to be able to do much else, really.
Who were your coaching inspirations? I’ve read things about the Liverpool boot room, Bobby Robson and even Roy Hodgson…
Lee Edwards, Tonbridge Wells
Roy Hodgson and Bob Houghton [coached Malmo to the 1979 European Cup Final] came to Sweden when they were both very young and they helped change Swedish football with new ideas and playing styles. I was very curious to know what they were doing and how they worked at that time so I got to know them both and became good friends with both Roy and Bob. Tord Grip has been a very important figure in my career and obviously Joe Fagan at Liverpool. I also used to go and watch Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town and Terry Venables’ Crystal Palace, too. I was interested in how Ajax played as well – I just wanted to learn from others and absorb as much as I could during my first few years as a coach and I always targeted good footballing sides.
When you were coach of Fiorentina you coached Roberto Baggio. Is he the most naturally talented player you have ever managed? If not, who is; Wayne Rooney, Ruud Gullit, Michael Ricketts?
Darren Richman, Radlett
Good question. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had a lot of great footballers in my teams over the years and Roberto Baggio is one of them, that’s for sure. We have a lot at City, too – take Micah Richards – he’s just 19 and is a fantastic talent. Wayne Rooney, Rui Costa, Paolo Sousa, Giuseppe Giannini and Elano, of course – like I said, I’ve been very lucky.
Is it true you’d already agreed to join Blackburn in 1997, changed your mind and joined Lazio instead?
Matt Davis, Nelson, Lancs
It’s true. I signed a contract with Blackburn Rovers chairman Jack Walker and then went back to Italy. I then received a call from Lazio who told me they wanted me to be their manager. It was a difficult situation so I saw Jack Walker a day later. Lazio offered to pay compensation but after much discussion, Jack tore up the contract, said, “We are friends, Sven. I understand.” That was the end of the matter. Jack Walker was a good man.
You seem very relaxed, but what makes you angry? Traffic wardens? Poor service in restaurants? Bad drivers?
Thomas Rodgers, Hove
I don’t get angry with other drivers because that’s not my style, but when I was England manager I travelled around a lot by car and it was frustrating being in traffic jams on the motorway – but what can you do about it?
You’re reputed to own 150 suits. Is this true? Do you remember the first suit you ever bought?
David Pierleweski, Northampton
No, that’s completely wrong. I have 20 or 25 at the most. The first one I bought was when I was at school for my graduation day – it was very nice!
Looking back, how surprised were you by the English media’s obsession with the England manager’s private life? Do you regret not being more cautious?
Michael Reid, Nottingham
I don’t regret anything and I don’t regret taking the England job, even if there was a lot of hassle from time to time. I was surprised at the level of interest that surrounds the private lives of famous people because I wasn’t used to that at the places I’d worked before. But you have to take it, handle it – or leave. I chose to stay where I was.
Now you’ve had time to reflect, how do you look back on your time as England manager? Do you see it as a success, a failure, or a bit of both?
Rob Laub, via e-mail
Well if it’s a failure to not reach the final, OK, that’s a failure. But I was always very proud to have the England job and I’m very proud I did it. For me, they were absolutely fantastic years.
Now you’re a Premiership manager, how differently do you see the club versus country now in England? You’ve already had a situation with Stephen Ireland…
R L Norton, via e-mail
I think it is a problem you will always have in football. If you are a club manager, you don’t like friendly international games. I already understood that because I never liked it when I was manager of Lazio, for example. I had a lot of international players who would leave for all corners of the world to play in a friendly for their country, but even if you are a club manager, you need to realise that international football is important for every country as well as for the supporters and the players. I fully support the national team for qualification and competitive games.
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