THERE are a number of things that have happened in the Premier League over the last 12 months which I would have dismissed as impossible as recently as five years ago: Manchester City becoming the richest club in the world (tick), Diego Maradona showing up for a match at Stoke (tick), Hull City reaching the top flight (tick).
So on that basis, why shouldn’t Sven-Goran Eriksson end up as the next manager of Portsmouth?
There are three reasons why a lot of people think Eriksson will pitch up at Fratton Park before the summer is out: 1) He is no longer coach of Mexico, having been sacked in the last week; 2) Athole Still has stated that Eriksson would like to manage in the Premier League again; 3) Nobody seems to expect Paul Hart to remain in charge at Pompey beyond the end of the season.
I suppose you can add a fourth, more nebulous reason to the list: Portsmouth have roughly the right status of the sort of English club you might expect to go for Eriksson. They’ll never qualify for the Champions League, but they might make it into Europe whenever they have a good season (like the last one) or get sucked into a relegation scrap if they have a bad season (like this one).
It says everything, I suppose, about how Eriksson’s stock has shifted over the last decade. In 2002, he was lined up for the Manchester United job before Sir Alex Ferguson changed his mind about retiring. Now he gets linked with Portsmouth. No offence, Pompey fans, but that’s not a step up.
Tonight’s final match: Hull 0 Portsmouth 0
Commentator: Alistair Mann
Sven-Goran Eriksson has lived in Sweden, in Portugal, in Italy, in England and in Mexico. He speaks, to my knowledge, four languages fluently. He has managed two international teams, has won the UEFA Cup twice and the Cup Winners’ Cup once, and has claimed domestic league titles in three countries.
He has, however, never been to Hull. (I have, Sven. I’ve been to Hull twice. Once to Boothferry Park, and once to the KC Stadium. What do you think about that? I bet you’ve never been to Scunthorpe either, Sven. I have. Only once, though. And I’ve never been to Grimsby.)
If he does end up at Portsmouth, I’m pretty sure he will get the chance to fill that Hull-shaped absence in his life next season, as I cannot see the Tigers or Pompey being relegated from the Premier League.
But if an Eriksson-led Portsmouth do get the chance to take on a Phil Brown-led Hull side in East Yorkshire in the not-too-distant future, I hope it’s a far, far better game than the tense, end-of-season scrap that brought up the rear on tonight’s Match of the Day.
There were two significant moments. Glen Johnson was sent off when Dean Marney kicked him and fell over. (As Alan Hansen said: “In all the years we’ve been doing this, that’s one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen.”)
And Pompey defender Hermann Hreidarsson headed against the post with pretty much the last move of the match.
That was it.
“I wonder why that game was on last,” smiled Mark Lawrenson.
Well, if Eriksson had been in charge, perhaps it wouldn’t have been. You see, during his single season in charge at Manchester City, Eriksson was never once last on Match of the Day.
And nearly three years after he left the England job, he is still big news. Notice how many of us suddenly became a lot more interested in Mexico’s results when he took charge of their national team. If he came to Fratton Park, you wouldn’t be able to open your paper or go online without a Pompey story jumping out at you.
That is why I think the Premier League would love to have Sven back. And Sven, it seems, would love to come back. So what’s the hold up?
Well, OK, what’s the hold up apart from the fact that Hart and his assistant Brian Kidd have done a really good job of steering Portsmouth towards safety? You know it’s going to happen, don’t you?
1. Fulham: 9 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2. West Brom: 7 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
3. Wigan: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
4. Middlesbrough: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
5. Bolton: 5 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
6. Capello: 4 (GD: +1; CD: +4)
7. Arsenal: 4 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
8. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
9. West Ham: 3 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
10=. Newcastle: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
10=. Hull: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
10=. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
13. Gubba: 2 (GD: +2; CD: +1)
14. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
15. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
16. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
17=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
17=. Tottenham: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
19=. Aston Villa: 0
19=. Chelsea: 0
19=. Liverpool: 0
19=. Manchester United: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)