A Swedish television show recently hooked up the national coaches with microphones, similar to Graham Taylor. As Marcus Christenson notes, it also hasn't gone down well

In hindsight, Sweden coaches Lars Lagerbäck and Tommy Söderberg should probably have asked Graham Taylor for advice before agreeing to have microphones on them during last summer’s World Cup. But they didn’t – and now sections of the media are calling for their resignations after television broadcast some of their conversations during the team’s games. Like Taylor, who was filmed giving nonsensical orders to substitute Nigel Clough during a game with Norway in 1993, the two Swedish coaches have not come out of the pro­ject look­ing particularly clever. The fiercest criticism has been reserved for their half-time chat ag­ainst Senegal when they discuss whether to substitute Aston Villa striker Marcus Allbäck.

Lars: “Should we stay as we are?”
Tommy: “With?”
Lars: “With Mackan [Marcus Allbäck]?”
Tommy: “But I feel to do that would destroy him. I think he should go in ten [minutes].”
Lars: “OK, that is what we will do then.”
Tommy: “There are other players as well as I see it.”
Lars: “But we have to keep possession and push up the team a bit.”
Tommy: “I am just saying [putting his hand on his heart – which leads Lars to pat him on the shoulder] sometimes I get so sad because he is having a really rough time.”
Lars: “OK.”

There is, if you’re Swedish, something very, very frightening about the conversation: your country is in the World Cup finals, which doesn’t happen that often, and the two men in charge are acting like inexperienced youth-team coaches. Also, Allbäck is 29 years old, has played professional football in Sweden, It­aly, the Netherlands and England and is per­fectly capable of coping with a substitution.

But there is also something quite endearing about it. They are clearly the right men for the job – they have taken a limited set of players and turned them into Europe’s best team (in the past two qualifying campaigns) by clinging to their beliefs about democracy, that the group is stronger than the individual and that everyone’s opinion is equal. It may be old-fashioned, but it worked until the Senegal game.

Unfortunately for Söderberg and Lagerbäck, however, the rest of the revelations were equally embarrassing as an example from the Argentina game shows.

Tommy: “Who is Andreas [Jakobsson] mar­king?”
Lars: “He is marking, er...”
Tommy: “He has Samuel, No 6.”
Lars: “No, we decided he has Chamot.”
Tommy: “Did we tell him about that?”
Lars: “Well, he read the bit about set-pieces, didn’t he?”
Tommy [flicking feverishly through his folders]: “Yes, but it doesn’t say here... That Almeyda guy is a fucking problem.”

The Swedish press, meanwhile, is not im­pressed. Tabloid Aftonbladet led the attack with an opinion piece by Peter Wennman saying: “My head screams: ‘They have got to go. Away. Away. Away.’ It annoys me enor­mously that two educated football coaches can be so hes­itant and so dependent on their damn folders and so completely unaware of the im­portance of results in top-level sport and, of all things, the World Cup finals. They make good youth-team coaches.”

The players and the Swedish FA, mean­while, have rallied behind their coaches and Söderberg pointed out: “Who wants to be tap­ed at work? There would probably be quite a few people out there who would look a bit stu­pid then.”

If only they had asked Graham Taylor.

From WSC 193 March 2003. What was happening this month

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