The Limey
Friday July 24th, 2009

Sven-Göran Eriksson must be kicking himself for not surviving the sack at Manchester City. After being given a top-10 target after he took the job in July 2007, the former England manager steered the club to ninth place in the Premier League that season, his first in charge. Notorious City fan and Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher told the BBC that Eriksson "gave us a bit of style and dignity and grace. He bought some great players." It was "the best season I can remember."

Not good enough, though, as then owner Thaksin Shinawatra, appalled by an end-of-season slump and Eriksson's relaxed approach, fired the Swede. Weeks later, and presumably to Sven's great chagrin, City was transformed into the richest club in the world following a takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group.

By then, Eriksson was the coach of Mexico, a role in which he would last only 10 months. In April, a 3-1 World Cup qualifier defeat to Honduras was Mexico's second loss in three qualifiers and extended the team's futility to just one win in seven matches.

Where next then for Sven? Back to the EPL? Portsmouth had been interested as recently as February. Or to another national team? Eriksson had a good reputation as England manager, taking the Three Lions to the quarterfinals of three successive major tournaments and only losing two of those matches on penalties. Or maybe to a top European club? Highlights of Sven's career on the continent included taking Benfica to the European Cup final and Lazio to the Serie A title.

It was much to everyone's shock, then, when Eriksson was unveiled on Wednesday as the Director of Football at Notts County. The fourth-division club offers the distinction of being the oldest professional soccer club in the world, and according to Eriksson, "the unique opportunity to help build a club over the longer term," thanks to funding from a recent Middle Eastern takeover -- but apart from its close proximity to tourist attraction The Tales of Robin Hood, little else.

Team Limey suspects the aspect of these funds that most attracted Sven to the club that finished 87th in the English league system last season had little to do with player purchasing. However, if Sven ever feels a little glum after going so far down in the world, a quick comparison with the fortunes of his former employer, Thaksin, may bring a smile to his face. After leaving City, the former Thai Prime Minister last year was found guilty by the Supreme Court of Thailand of a conflict of interest and was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail. Thaksin now lives in international exile, predominantly in Dubai.

One man who officially isn't a criminal is Liverpool captain and England international Steven Gerrard, who was cleared on Friday of charges relating to a brawl in a Merseyside bar last December. The England midfielder admitted hitting Marcus McGee, 34, but denied the charge of affray.

The jury at Liverpool Crown Court agreed with Gerrard's plea that he was acting in self-defense, despite six friends of the 29-year-old footballer admitting charges connected with the incident. Gerrard had been drinking with friends celebrating Liverpool's 5-1 win over Newcastle United. Closed-circuit camera footage from the bar showed the group drinking beer, downing shots and dancing while chanting soccer songs. Gerrard estimated that he was a "seven out of 10" on the drunkenness scale, but told the court, "I certainly knew I had had a drink. I was certainly in control of how I felt in my surroundings." Team Limey was baffled -- seven out of 10 on our drunkenness scale involves resuscitation in the hospital.

One club that is rapidly resuscitating from the doldrums of life in mid-table is aforementioned Manchester City. It continued its rampant summer spending spree last weekend with the $40 million signing of Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal. The Togo international and '08 African Player of the Year scored an impressive 30 goals for the Gunners in '07-08 before injuries limited him to just 16 last season.

Adebayor has cut a controversial figure at the Emirates lately with many Arsenal fans perceiving a lack of commitment. Such thinking originated in clumsy statements by Adebayor in the summer of '08 concerning a possible future away from Arsenal, and was subsequently fueled by some seemingly apathetic performances on the field. With Arsenal receiving eight times what it paid for the player, many fans feel the deal with City represents real value.

Others point to Adebayor's style of play previously benefiting from the fluid advances and creativity of Alexander Hleb, Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fàbregas. By the beginning of last season Hleb had left for Barcelona, while ruptured knee ligaments left Rosicky out for the season and Fàbregas out for four key months, respectively. Furthermore, did Adebayor's lack of rapport with Arsenal fans affect his performances? He certainly thinks so.

"The way the fans behaved towards me was not nice at all," Adebayor told the Manchester Evening News. "I can't understand why they were after me. I did my best for them and I was very happy. I scored 30 goals in a season -- it's not my fault that Milan, Barcelona or Real Madrid wanted to sign me. In any summer, Barcelona try to sign Cesc Fàbregas. But the fans never turned on him."

City signed Adebayor after missing out on Samuel Eto'o, for whom it also bid $40 million. Eto'o is set to leave Barcelona for Inter Milan as a makeweight in a deal that sees Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrive at the Camp Nou. In return, $63 million stuffed into brown paper envelopes will accompany Eto'o in a van to Milan, as will none other than Hleb, though he'll be labeled "return after one season." Man. City should see Ibrahimovic in action on Aug. 19 when it faces Barcelona for the Joan Gamper Trophy (or Torneig Joan Gamper, for you Catalan speakers).

This week, we present the next installment in our overview of the three teams promoted into the EPL this season. Birmingham City, the team that finished second in the Championship, is well-known in the EPL -- not just for the porn empire of its owners, but also due to its four successive seasons of relegation and promotion out and into the EPL since in '05-06. Prior to that period, the Blues spent four seasons in the top flight, a period it hoped, and most observers thought, would lead to its long-term establishment as a Premiership side.

The City of Birmingham is absent from the to-do list of most visitors to our fair shores; however, it is famous for more than its 2.6 million population being the second highest in the U.K. Cars and heavy metal are what has made the city really rock. The motor industry dominated the city of Birmingham ever since Henry Ford's ideas of vehicle mass production made their way across the pond.

Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, the production lines of England's Motown have seen a gradual slow-down to the point of inertia. On the music front, heavy-metal forefathers Led Zeppelin and bat-munching Ozzy Osbourne's Black Sabbath firmly plant the Midlands city on the U.K. map.

In footballing terms, Aston Villa has been a perennial fixture in England's top flight, with fleeting appearances over the years from the "other" Birmingham sides -- most recently West Bromwich Albion, relegated from the EPL last season to be replaced by the Championship champions Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the subject of this feature, Birmingham City.

Former Scotland national-team boss Alex McLeish inherited a sinking ship when he took over Birmingham City in the '07-08 season. "Big Eck" arrived at the club with an excellent reputation, having guided Glasgow Rangers to two Scottish titles and five trophies in his five years at Ibrox, and becoming statistically the best Scotland manager ever with a .700 winning percentage during his 10 months in charge of the national team.

Thankfully for McLeish, City's finances are fairly solid. The ownership of porn magnates David Sullivan and David Gold meant there was little pressure for McLeish to sell following relegation. Established EPL players like James McFadden, Franck Queudrue and Liam Ridgewell were retained and were joined by proven EPL players Lee Carsley, Kevin Philips, Marcus Bent and Lee Bowyer. McLeish had arguably the strongest squad in the Championship and successfully guided the Blues to an immediate return to the top flight, something many bosses have found impossible to achieve.

An already strong squad with proven EPL experience stands a very good chance of surviving the drop this season. The Blues have enhanced their chances further by adding to their squad with the astute loan signing of Man. City goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has found himself out of the team at City following the arrival of Shay Given. Hart is desperate to impress to earn himself a place in Fabio Capello's World Cup squad next summer.

Highly rated center back Roger Johnson has joined from Cardiff City for $8 million and, most controversially of all, McLeish has signed his former Scotland national-team and Rangers captain Barry Ferguson. Ferguson has a lot to prove, and a reputation to resurrect after his disgraced exit from Scottish soccer, thanks to his all-night drinking exploits and unsubtle schoolboy V-sign behavior in the game that followed.

Let all your seven-out-of-10 banter flow to thelimey@hotmail.co.uk.

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