Sven-Goran Eriksson’s spell as England (opens in new tab) manager reignited optimism around the national team but failed to deliver tournament success.
After Kevin Keegan stepped down following defeat to Germany (opens in new tab) in the final game at the old Wembley, Eriksson took over and lifted the team’s spirits.
His time in charge coincided with the rise of the so-called golden generation, featuring David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.
For all the team’s undoubted star power, England failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals of three major tournaments under Eriksson, twice losing to Portugal (opens in new tab) on penalties.
The manager’s lack of tactical flexibility and internal divides caused by club loyalties have since been cited as reasons why the Three Lions didn’t challenge for honours.
As Eriksson prepared to step down after the 2006 World Cup campaign, plenty of candidates were interviewed for the role, which eventually went to his assistant Steve McClaren.
Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley and Luiz Felipe Scolari were all considered but the Brazilian World Cup winner dropped out of the running after being stalked by the press.
Speaking to FourFourTwo magazine, Martin O’Neill admitted that he was also in the running to take over from Eriksson.
“I was interviewed for it, yeah. Steve McClaren had been working with Sven-Goran Eriksson and he got the job,” said the 70-year-old.
“I’d left Celtic (opens in new tab) after my wife was ill, but she was getting better and it was a real honour to be interviewed for the England job. Regardless of the criticism you might get, it’s one of the great managerial jobs in world football.”
McClaren didn’t last long in the role as England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 after an infamous 3-2 defeat to Croatia (opens in new tab).
By then, O’Neill had returned to the Premier League with Aston Villa (opens in new tab), where he would remain in charge until August 2010.