THE NEXT TRYST IN TAWDRY TALE; Three Employees, Two Affairs and One Huge Problem at Soho Square. Now the Football Association Must Decide How to Clean Up the Mess on Their Doorstep. to Do So They Must Decide Which of the Threesome to Back - and Which to Sack. Paul Thomson Reports on the Possibilities

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What if the FA sack Eriksson?

THIS is the scenario favoured by those in the media who have never warmed to the idea of the England team being coached by - say it through gritted teeth - a foreigner.

Add to this the prurience governing much of the coverage and you have a powerful argument for removing Eriksson from the tabloid firing line.

As one senior Football Association board member put it: "This couldn't come at a worst time. Parliament is in recess and the tabloids are hungry for gossip. It's embarrassing that it should fall, once again, to the FA to provide it."

Yet, while there is alarm at Soho Square over the latest headlines, there is little appetite for sacking Eriksson over what is seen as essentially a personal matter.

The issue exercising the minds of the FA's 12-man executive board is the denial released last week. But even if it is found that Eriksson lied about the allegations, the mood inside Soho Square is to stand by their man.

Executives question what he has actually done wrong.

Above all else the financial implications are immense. Eriksson is under contact until 2008 and is believed to be paid [pounds sterling]4million a year.

If dismissed he will certainly demand that his contract be paid in full - by an organisation so cashstrapped that it recently had to get rid of 20 per cent of its workforce.

As an accountant, Palios will be able to fill in the noughts himself.

Premier League representatives on the FA board, such as League chairman Dave Richards and Southampton's Rupert Lowe, are thought to have opposed the renewal of Sven's contract when he was caught taking tea with Roman Abramovich. This could be a convenient way to bring the matter to a head.

However, dismissing Eriksson would be hugely disruptive to England's preparations for their World Cup campaign.

Early September brings two qualifiers - in Poland and Austria - that will go a long way towards deciding whether England make it to Germany in 2006.

Eriksson is clearly at his best when plotting qualification for major tournaments and dispensing with his expertise now would, in football terms at least, be cavalier.

There is also the question of who to draft in as successor.

Trevor Brooking would probably take charge for the friendly against Ukraine on 18 August. But the only name being touted as a serious successor is Steve McClaren, currently under contract at Middlesbrough, a club who have invested [pounds sterling]4.5m in backing his judgment this summer.

They would certainly demand sizeable compensation to release him.

So, sacking Eriksson and hiring McClaren could cost the FA as much as [pounds sterling]20m - money they simply do not have.

What if the FA sack Palios?

NO ONE has seriously suggested this yet, but in many ways he should be the most vulnerable of the threesome.

After all, while a chief executive has a duty of care to look after their staff, this doesn't usually extend to luring them between his (spread) sheets. …


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