DURING his time as England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson was as much on the front pages of newspapers as the back pages.

With his glamourpuss Italian lawyer girlfriend Nancy Dell'Olio and his affair with TV weather presenter Ulrika Jonsson, he went from unknown to a household name in his adopted country.

But did you know that a few years before his appointment as England manager in 2001, he briefly, in fact very briefly, had agreed to become manager of Blackburn Rovers?

Indeed, it took a very generous gesture from Rovers' multi-millionaire owner Jack Walker to avoid a potentially lengthy and costly legal battle.

The Swede was in charge of Sampdoria in Italy, in December 1996, and quite the hot property. Rovers, having won the league the previous year under Kenny Dalglish, were on the lookout for a new coach when Ray Harford departed after a poor start to the 1996/7 season.

Back then, their financial clout was as strong as any side in the country thanks to Walker's millions, and Rovers scoured the continent for a coach of the very highest calibre and profile.

After negotiations with Walker, it emerged that Eriksson had agreed to be Rovers' next boss and the Ewood club were delighted with their coup.

But then things unravelled.

Italian giants Lazio caught wind that Eriksson could be persuaded to move on and began to show an interest.

Eriksson decided he would prefer a return to Italy's capital, where he had previously managed Roma, to coming in Lancashire.

The dilemma for Eriksson was he had physically signed a contract with Rovers and to renege at this stage would be tricky in the extreme.

Here we get an insight into the kind of man Walker was. Despite huge disappointment that his new recruit had had a change of heart, the Rovers owner, who died in 2000, reportedly tore up the contract without even asking for compensation.

Eriksson joined Lazio, where he went on to win the league title.

Walker went on to appoint Roy Hodgson, another future England coach who was highly-regarded on the continent.

Speaking back in 2007 when he was due to take his Manchester City team to Ewood Park, Eriksson said: "It was very, very close (becoming Blackburn manager). In fact it was even more than close.

"I don't feel bad about it. I had signed a deal with Blackburn and I phoned up Jack Walker to see if it was possible to change my mind.

"I met him twice. I met him in England and I met him in Italy and at the end I said I'm prepared (to pay) compensation whatever it is. But at the end he said I understand you Sven and he took the contract and tore it up and said we are friends forever. That's it. I didn't pay them compensation - he didn't want it. It is a good story.

"The first time I went to Blackburn as England manager I wondered what will they say and what comments will be made but there was nothing but welcome."