The Englishman who took Sweden to the World Cup Final
Published: 19 Jun 2006 12:48 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Jun 2006 12:48 GMT+02:00
George Raynor, a typically no-nonsense Yorkshireman, guided Sweden to the World Cup final on home turf having been recommended to the Swedes very kindly by the English Football Association.
Despite the plethora of countries willing to hire foreign coaches to secure success, they have a remarkably poor record with just Raynor and Austrian Ernst Happel, in charge of the Netherlands at the 1978 edition, guiding their teams to the finals - both losing to Brazil and Argentina respectively.
Dutch master Guus Hiddink has been the closest since, taking South Korea to the semi-finals in 2002.
If Eriksson is looking for a good omen both he and Raynor share another similarity on their CV's as they both coached Lazio - though in Raynor's days they were not the rich force they were when the Swede took them to the Italian title.
However that is from where Raynor arose to take charge of the Swedish side, coming off a moderate record of played 19, won six, lost eight and drawn five - a club record that would have seen most managers sacked rather than handed the managerial post at a national side.
But Raynor proved to be a master stroke in headhunting as he used the nucleus of the Swedish side that won the 1948 Olympic title to form a formidable side that even gave the rampant Hungarian side of the era a run for their money.
"If we win I'll paint Stalin's moustache (on his statue) red," vowed Raynor prior to a friendly in Budapest in 1954 - thankfully the Hungarian prison cell he would have been bound for had he carried out his promise was left unused as they drew 2-2.
Back then though the English FA must have been looking enviously over to Scandinavia when two weeks later their side under Walter Winterbottom was whipped 7-1 by the Hungarians.
Unlike Eriksson and his preparations for the World Cup, Raynor had to cope with a huge debate over whether he could select the professional players playing in Serie A as the Swedish league was amateur at the time.
Finally he was given the green light and in a short space of time had managed to gel the team into a formidable force.
However, even keen students of history do not always learn from previous misjudgements.
Such was the case for Eriksson in the 2-1 defeat in the 2002 quarter-final against Brazil - in which England had opened the scoring.
"If Brazil go a goal behind in the final they will panic," said Raynor confidently in 1958 - they did then too - but Pele, Mario Zagallo and their team ran out 5-2 winners.