Leicester turn to Eriksson
At the Walkers Stadium.
Exactly 10 years ago Peter Taylor's Leicester headed into an international break sitting proudly at the top of the Premier League.
A week later a sodden Kevin Keegan quit as coach of England after his team lost to Germany in the final game at the old Wembley - and within months Sven-Goran Eriksson had left his job with Italian side Lazio to replace him.
A lot has happened over the intervening decade but it is fair to say that both Leicester and Eriksson find themselves in greatly reduced circumstances. Unlikely as it might seem, they have now turned to each other to attempt to restore their reputation and standing.
The 62-year-old Swede is poised to sign a two-year deal to succeed Paulo Sousa at the struggling Championship club, with an official announcement expected on Sunday.
Eriksson arrived at the Walkers Stadium on Saturday to watch Leicester's match against Scunthorpe and was given a warm round of applause, even the odd cheer from the crowd that had eagerly gathered to await his arrival. There was a definite sense that they would not believe the rumours about him until they saw him with their own eyes.
A number of the Tweets that I received on Saturday told me that not every Foxes fan has been immediately sold on the Swede, whose previous coaching role had been a short-term position with the Ivory Coast.
Eriksson has managed clubs in his native Sweden, Portugal, Italy and England. And in addition to his five-year spell as coach of England and his brief role with the Ivory Coast, he also had a short-lived and unsuccessful period in charge of Mexico.
The last time I saw Eriksson was in Port Elizabeth in mid-June as he prepared Ivory Coast for their World Cup group match against Portugal.
It was textbook Sven; composed, articulate and unflappable as he answered questions from the media in several different languages. He cracked the odd joke and gave an affirmative thumbs-up to several journalists.
The script was the same on Saturday. In the few minutes between climbing out of his car and disappearing inside the directors entrance, he shook the hand of the nearest steward, waved at the crowd and answered a few questions from the media. All was done with a smile and an earnest look.
His previous job at club level in England had been as director of football at Notts County, a role that he held for most of last season.
His stock might have fallen since he left the England national side at the end of the 2006 World Cup but it was nonetheless almost beyond belief when he turned up at a club that was then in the fourth tier of English football. It gave the impression that there was no job in football that Eriksson would not consider.
And with Leicester the next stop on his increasingly eclectic CV, he has clearly developed a liking for the East Midlands.
Whether any of this means that he is the right appointment for the Foxes remains a matter of opinion. He is obviously an experienced manager at club level who can boast success in several different countries. But Eriksson has not managed in the Championship before and, in joining a club two months into the season, will have to quickly familiarise himself with his new surroundings.
The victory he saw on Saturday, the last Leicester match before a two-week international break, lifted the Foxes off the bottom of the table. And with 36 fixtures left there is plenty of time for Eriksson to haul the club towards a repeat of last season when the club reached the play-offs.
The win against Scunthorpe was built on grit and determination and came after the temporary management team of Chris Powell and Mike Stowell picked a 4-4-2 formation. In many ways it was a typical up-and-at em Championship performance and it will be fascinating to see what approach Eriksson adopts.
His mission will undoubtedly be to take the club back into the Premier League. Then again, that was the stated aim of predecessor Sousa, who was sacked on Friday after just nine league games in charge.
"I see only positive things in bringing a former England manager to the club," said Leicester defender Bruno Berner after his team's 3-1 win over the Iron. "But we all thought the appointment of Paulo Sousa was a positive step."
Sousa had been given the dreaded vote of confidence by chairman Milan Mandaric after Tuesday's 4-3 defeat at Norwich and was duly sacked before the weekend.
The former Portugal international was in charge at Swansea last season. The Welsh club boasted one of the tightest defences in the Championship under his leadership, conceding just 37 goals as they missed out on a play-off place by one position. However, Sousa's Leicester had conceded 22 goals in their nine league fixtures and 10 in their previous two games. Mandaric told BBC Radio 5 live on Friday that you did not need to be a brain surgeon to work out why Sousa had been sacked.
This is the same Mandaric that argued the club was very fortunate to have acquired someone of "such high calibre" as Sousa after appointing him in July. Earlier this week the chairman claimed that "now is the time to show how strong we are together and how united we are behind our manager" before obviously experiencing a complete change of heart.
It is perhaps no wonder that the League Managers' Association chief Richard Bevan has been very critical of the decision - arguing that it helps to explain why Leicester have failed to return to the Premier League since their relegation in 2004.
"Leicester City have had 14 managers since 2004 and six while the current chairman has been at the club," said Bevan.
The LMA boss also described the dismissal of Sousa as knee-jerk and destabilising, arguing that changing your manager so early in the season is not the behaviour of a successful club.
Sousa had tried to instill in his players a slick passing style and altered the formation, favouring a 4-3-3 line-up instead of the 4-4-2 that brought Nigel Pearson success for most of last season.
"We did not win enough games and we were not effective enough," added Berner of Sousa's time in charge.
"I learnt a lot from him and think he is a fantastic person and manager but maybe the style did not suit us in the Championship, maybe there was too much passing. At the end we conceded too many goals and although we were all surprised by the timing of the decision you could see it coming."
Quotes attributed to Sousa suggest that he personally did not see it coming. He has now managed three Championship clubs in QPR, Swansea and Leicester and has arguably been unfortunate at all three.
Instead of taking the Leicester squad to Thailand during the international break, Sousa is left to consider the fragile nature of football management.
Many Leicester fans spent the week wildly dreaming about the possible return of Martin O'Neill. They are now left to debate whether Eriksson can succeed where so many others have failed in taking the club back to the Premier League.
Or whether he will get a fair chance to do so.