Tea in the Boot Room, YNWA and nights at Anfield – Sven's Liverpool story

InterviewTea in the Boot Room, YNWA and nights at Anfield – Sven's Liverpool story

By Liverpool FC


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Sven-Goran Eriksson fulfilled a lifelong ambition when managing a Liverpool team at Anfield last weekend, but he can still vividly remember his first visit to Merseyside back in 1979.

Eriksson was a 31-year-old coach making his way with IFK Gothenburg in the Swedish Allsvenskan when he sent off a speculative letter, addressed to the then Reds manager Bob Paisley.

His note asked if it would be possible to come and visit the club, take in a training session and, he hoped, gain some insight into what made the European champions of 1977 and 1978 such a great team.

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“They said I was welcome to come,” Eriksson, now 76, tells Liverpoolfc.com. “I remember the training. It was very simple, very high quality.

“I watched a game, and I remember being in the Boot Room after the game. It was tight between [Manchester] United and Liverpool, [as to] who would win the league.

“We had been drinking tea there, and after a while I asked, ‘What about United, what did United do today?’ It must have been one hour after the game and they said, ‘We don’t know’!

“Can you imagine that you are so secure of yourself like Liverpool were? They did it their way, they didn’t care what others did. The coach, [Joe Fagan], just said he didn’t know what the United result was!”

Reflecting on the iconic Boot Room, Eriksson continues: “It had a lot of shoes around, and a desk. We were standing, some were sitting, but it was small.

“They told me, ‘Sven, you can talk about whatever you want – politics, football, whatever – but you cannot talk about the game we just played’, which is great. That was forbidden. You don’t talk about ‘Was it a penalty or not?’, things like that. It was a very good rule!

“When I had Gothenburg, Liverpool wanted to buy a player of ours, Torbjorn Nilsson, and they sent one of their scouts.

“He followed Gothenburg for two months, home and away. He even travelled in the bus with us when we went away! But at the end, they said ‘no thank you’ and they took another player.”

Eriksson’s managerial career took him from Gothenburg to Benfica, where he would come up against Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the European Cup in 1984.

And he would subsequently take charge of clubs of the calibre of Roma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Lazio before, in 2000, being named manager of England.

Later, he coached Manchester City, Leicester City and Notts County, also enjoying spells with Mexico, Ivory Coast and the Philippines, as well as working in China.

Liverpool, though, was always his club.

Eriksson at Anfield in March 2001
Eriksson at Anfield in March 2001

His passion for the Reds, he explains, was inherited from his father, also called Sven, and cemented during his childhood in Sweden.

“I have always been a Liverpool fan, since I was a child,” Eriksson says. “And my father, since he was much younger, has been a Liverpool fan also, so it is in the family. My brother is a Liverpool fan, my son is a Liverpool fan.

“Sometimes you are angry when the team isn’t doing very well. There were some years where nothing happened, but now it is happening again on the highest level possible. To be a Liverpool fan today is great!”

He adds: “Many years ago in Sweden, they started a TV programme at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon [showing English top-flight games] and we always hoped they would show Liverpool, because we could only see one game.”

Eriksson would encounter Liverpool infrequently during his managerial career, suffering a 5-1 aggregate defeat in that European Cup quarter-final with Benfica, and coming up against the Reds twice with Manchester City during the 2007-08 season.

He also took charge of three England games at Anfield between 2001 and 2006, and has strong memories of attending European matches at the famous stadium.

“When Liverpool played Celtic in the UEFA Cup [in 2003], I came to watch that game,” he says. “And it was even better because the two teams had the same song, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

“I don’t know what it is, but just the words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ are beautiful, in sport, in life, whatever. As a Liverpool fan, they mean even more.”

He continues: “It’s the best atmosphere in the world. I remember [when] I had England, I came here to see Liverpool v Barcelona [in 2001].

“I knew the president of Barcelona [Joan Gaspart] a little bit, and before the game, we stood and talked about football. Five minutes before the game started, I said, ‘Let’s go outside’, and he said, ‘There’s still time’ but I said, ‘No, have you been here before?’

“So when they started to sing, I said to him, ‘See?’ and he said, ‘That was amazing Sven, I’ve seen all the stadiums but that was special.’ He thanked me for taking him out early!”

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Eriksson enjoyed an emotional visit to Anfield on Saturday, taking charge of Liverpool FC Legends as they defeated Ajax Legends in the annual LFC Foundation charity match.

But did he ever come close to managing the Reds competitively?

“No, I didn’t,” he says, ruefully. “When I was at Benfica, many years ago now, the agent I had then was a close friend of the head of football in Liverpool [Peter Robinson]. This was during the late 1980s/1990s.

“And he was talking to me about, ‘Maybe next season, maybe.’ But it didn’t happen.”

He finishes: “But I will take extremely good memories back to Sweden, of course, and I am thankful to the people.

“It’s great, because I never worked for Liverpool, only played against them! But I supported them with all my heart.”



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This article has been automatically translated and, while all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, some errors in translation are possible. Please refer to the original English-language version of the article for the official version.