After a week of celebrating their best
football entrapment yarn for a while, London’s News Of The World tabloid went back to
the well yesterday, with yet more breathless revelations of what Sven Goran
Eriksson had to say to their fake sheikh.
There were nods and hints at claims he’d
made regarding Premier League clubs doing under-the-table deals, and some
bitchy comments about star managers like Manchester United’s boss, Sir Alex
But chapter two lacked last week’s impact.
Yesterday’s new instalment carried a lot of pixelated faces and lines like
“Manager X,” instead of naming names. Of particular curiosity is why the fake
sheikh’s face is blurred in every image. Was he so embarrassed by the whole
thing that he demanded anonymity? Or are there legal reasons why it’s best not
to be photographed committing fraud?
If nothing else, football fans must be
wondering where NOTW is planning to go with all this? Does the paper hope to
embarrass Eriksson into resigning, or being sacked by the Football Association?
Is that actually in anybody’s interests with the World Cup only months away?
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Paul Wilson, in The Observer, wraps up the
state of play. Having pointed out that Eriksson’s character was already well-established as
dodgy by previous scandals and gaffes, he wrote:
There was really no need, with
the World Cup five months away, for the NoW to go to such trouble and expense
just to rake over old ground.
Because the basic
deal is simple. Should England win the World Cup, Eriksson could be the
biggest cad and bounder in history and all will be quickly forgiven and
forgotten. Not least by the NoW, who a few months ago made an official
complaint to the FA that Sunday newspapers were receiving insufficient
cooperation from the England coach. Should England flop, on the other hand, Eriksson will be on
his bike with whatever cash settlement he can stuff in his saddlebag and very
few people to wave him off.
His ability to see
through fake sheikhs, in other words, is not what he’s going to be judged by.
Wilson also made the point
that the stunt had not played well with the public, most of whom rang talkback
radio, not to huff about Sven’s behaviour but to rant about the newspaper’s
irresponsible prank undermining England’s chances in Germany.
It might be time to
return the zany sheikh outfit to the costume shop it was rented from.