Even before Fabio Capello walked out of Wembley for the last time last month, the Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, had a phobia about discussing the issue of the Italian's successor. Bernstein was so determined not to answer any question on the subject that might in any way be construed as meaningful, that he was one step from finger-in-ears-la-la-la avoidance tactics.
In some respects you could see why. He was desperate not to offend Capello by lining up his replacement for when the Italian's contract expired after the 2012 European Championship. In addition, Bernstein was clearly anxious not to upset the clubs of the managers he was interested in appointing.
His problem was compounded by the fact the man whom most thought ideal for the job was Harry Redknapp and, until 8 February, the day Capello walked out, Redknapp was facing two counts of cheating the public revenue and a possible jail sentence. To add to the complications, the case was the subject of reporting restrictions.
That was why Bernstein rolled up into a ball – figuratively speaking – every time the question of the succession came up. But the FA chairman does not need to any more. Capello has gone. Redknapp has been acquitted. Bernstein can do what he likes.
The FA general secretary, Alex Horne, said on Friday that the governing body would not approach any candidate until the "back end of the season". While it is not entirely clear what span of time that phrase refers to, it is understood that the FA will not leave the appointment until after 13 May, the last game of the season, as has been suggested in some quarters.
Which means the FA will have no choice but to start approaching clubs for permission to speak to their managers during the season and it should have no qualms about doing so. The FA cannot afford to tiptoe around now, especially with Roman Abramovich also in the market for a new manager. Redknapp has just become the hottest property in town.
Appointing the new England manager is too important a process to leave until the last minute. If Bernstein approaches Tottenham in the next few weeks for permission to speak to Redknapp, and upsets the club along the way, then, frankly, too bad. Before yesterday, it was just falling out with Spurs he will have been concerned about. Now he has a possible interest from Chelsea to worry about too.
Bernstein is the chairman of the FA and he is charged with making the most crucial appointment in the English game – as far as those of us who value international football are concerned. He will have to step on some toes.
Daniel Levy has been a shrewd chairman of Tottenham and, with a few bumps along the way, he has built the club to a point where it can challenge the Premier League elite. It may well hurt him to lose his manager – he will doubtless be fully compensated – but that is football. It is a tough old gig sometimes.
It should be pointed out that Levy appointed Redknapp the day after he sacked Juande Ramos in October 2008, which would suggest that he laid the groundwork long before he handed the Spanish manager the box to clear his desk. A year earlier, there was a well-publicised visit to Seville to see Ramos by a Spurs delegation while Martin Jol was still in charge.
Should Spurs be approached by the FA over Redknapp during the next few days then Levy would start casting around for his replacement. The Swansea City manager, Brendan Rodgers, is thought to be admired at Spurs. What was the FA's problem, becomes Spurs' problem, becomes Swansea's problem. It was ever thus.Reuse content