This charming man: Ian with Sven
Respect to Sven
by Ian Cheeseman
If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone say: "There's no respect anymore," I might just be able to buy a round of teas in the BBC canteen. So where are the positive role models, particularly in sport?
If you, as a paying spectator shout your partisan disgust at a decision against your team, you're likely to be hauled out by a steward and relieved of your season card. If a manager runs down the touchline swearing at an official, it’s "the pressures of the job", or that he's simply "proving he's a winner".
Does that mean the next time a policeman taps you on the shoulder to ask you to pick up the litter you so carelessly threw on the floor you can tell him where to go? No, of course not. But then again if that's what some of our most respected football managers and players do, then why not?
Positive sporting role models are few and far between, it seems, in the 'great' Britain of the new millennium. They did exist: people like Tom Finney, Colin Bell and Gary Lineker are examples from different generations.
I've met and interviewed all three. I've never heard them swear, and they have treated everyone around them with courtesy and respect. Some might argue they played football at a time when there weren't 16 cameras recording every facial expression and gesture, as well as every kick of the ball. Though I believe they'd have demonstrated good manners and sportsmanship, and all three were winners.
There are still a few examples, but they're few and far between, but I'm proud to say that the current manager of Manchester City, Sven Goran Eriksson, definitely falls into that category.
I meet Svennis on a regular basis, usually at the club's pre- and post-match press conferences but also occasionally in less formal settings. Right from my first encounter with the former England boss, I was impressed. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word, a charming and polite man, with everyone he meets.
More often than not he introduces himself with a handshake and a warm smile followed by a simple "hello". The first time I met another of the big-name Premier League manager, who shall remain nameless, I was shocked to be welcomed with, "who the **** are you" followed by "no ******* stupid questions" - charmed I'm sure. I wouldn't talk to a dog like that.
Winners: Eriksson and Wenger
Sven, by contrast, deals with people respectfully - even under pressure. At a recent press conference, a journalist asked him what he thought of Joey Barton's comment that suggested he only got his job because the Newcastle midfielder had kept City in the Premier League last season. The reporter was clearly looking for a quote that would make the sporting headlines. Sven simply replied, "if that's the case, then thank you". Class.
Eriksson's respectful attitude has made him more friends than enemies, both inside and outside the game. The benefits of having a network of friends in football, are there for everyone to see. A phone call to his pal, the Brazil manager Dunga, helped persuade Elano to move to Eastlands. The creative genius could have gone anywhere, but now Manchester City are reaping the rewards with some outstanding displays.
The way he handled Stephen Ireland's early return from International duty didn't surprise me. When asked to give his views, he did - but without disrespecting the player (the man) or his girlfriend. I don't know what has been said behind closed doors but Ireland's response on the pitch has been first class.
It’s no surprise to me, either, that the fellow manager Sven most respects in the Premier League is Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman is another from the old school. Polite and courteous to strangers, he always says hello when I pass him in a corridor after a City v Arsenal match, even though he hasn’t a clue who I am.
The great thing about the two managers I’ve mentioned are that they are winners. In my eyes Wenger is the best manager in the Premier League. His team plays attractive football and has been assembled without using the millions spent by the other three in the so-called big four.
With Sven-Goran Eriksson in charge at Eastlands, I’d love to believe that Manchester City have the next Arsene Wenger, though I’m well aware that there’s a long way to go yet. Wenger has been at Arsenal for a generation and I’d love to think Sven’s 'project' is long-term and that he can build a dynasty that will get City back to the top.
City have started the season with impressive results and a style of football I’ve not seen since the Mercer-Allison era, it’s a pleasure to go to every game. The next step is to win a trophy and start to qualify for European competitions regularly and I believe there’s a real possibility of that happening.
There will be some hiccups along the way – no team wins every week – but sit back and enjoy the ride. Take a bow, Mr Eriksson, and respect to you sir, for restoring the pride in the club’s motto, “Superbia In Proelia” – Pride in Battle.
Ian's column will be published on, or close to, the 17th of each month. If you want to get in touch, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or use the form below
last updated: 18/10/07
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