FA may wait for Monsieur Houllier

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The Independent Online
THE Frenchman Gerard Houllier could re-emerge as the man to fill the post of English football's technical director. I understand that Houllier would be willing to take the job if the Football Association decide to wait for him until after the World Cup of 1998.

Houllier, who is technical director of the French Federation, was among the first choices of the FA when they first considered the post almost two years ago. He told them, however, that he was committed to France until after the next World Cup in his own country.

The FA, who are currently involved in the process of interviewing two more candidates, have so far been unable to find a suitable figure. They have considered, among others, Howard Wilkinson and the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, who is succeeding the new Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger - himself also mooted - at Grampus Eight in Japan. Should the two new men also not measure up, they may return to Houllier.

"We would have to weigh up the urgency of the job and things that need to be done, against somebody who might not fulfil all the criteria," said the FA's chief executive Graham Kelly. "We have been aiming high and if we had the prospect of getting the right man, somebody who would be evangelical about coaching in this country, we would look again."

Houllier, acknowledged as an expert organiser of coaches and coaching structures, has been with the French Federation for 10 years, which include two as assistant to Michel Platini and two as national coach. He is an Anglophile with strong contacts in this country. He is also a strong supporter of Eric Cantona and friend of David Dein, the Arsenal vice-chairman to whom he recommended Wenger. He would undoubtedly work well with the Francophile England coach Glenn Hoddle.

During his spell at the top of the French game, Houllier has overseen significant improvement in their international results, and developed a youth programme that saw their under-18 team win the European Championship. His current youth schemes reach fruition in 1998, after which he could well be ready for a new challenge.

Having gone so long without finding a better alternative, the FA may now be tempted to extend the contract of the caretaker Don Howe as technical co-ordinator beyond the middle of next year and, unless their current interviewees impress strongly, hold on for their man.

French connection, page 23