Having rung out the old and rung in Fabio Capello, the Football Association are looking, as is customary at this time of year, to the future. In a hectic week, England's next manager has been unveiled and the first independ-ent FA chairman has been named; and a strategy to take the organisation through to 2012 a "significant piece of work" plus a National Football Centre have been promised. There has even been talk, rather oddly, of Capello's successor, with the FA's chief executive, Brian Barwick, apparently desperate that it should be an Englishman.
Sir Trevor Brooking, the director of development, is at last being allowed to exert greater influence, as is evident in the full board's belated approval for the National Football Centre, whether it is at Burton or elsewhere. Brooking sees the centre as essential to his vision of transforming the development of coaches and, through them, the young players who are not coming through in sufficient numbers from the 41 existing academies at self-interested Premier League and Football League clubs.
"We need to invest in a long-term vision and philosophy for coaching and players and transform what we do," says Brooking. "The perception within Uefa is that we are producing young English players who are not as good technically as those in some of the other major European countries, and that we play a long-ball style, which must mean our English coaches are producing those type of players."
For the more immediate future, he has accepted a little reluctantly that Capello happens to offer a better chance of success than any domestic manager can.
Barwick admits that the FA are buying time in the hope that a suitable English candidate or two manages to emerge next time. He said: "We're giving ourselves a great coach to work with the team, but also we're giving ourselves breathing space to try and find an Englishman. We've had an Englishman in recent times and it didn't quite work out, but of course our ambition should be to have an Englishman."
That does beg the interesting question of what would happen if Capello was overwhelmingly successful. Were the Italian somehow to achieve his stated ambition of winning the 2010 World Cup and then retiring on a high just as his compatriot MarcelloLippi has done the most obvious conclusion would surely be that a vastly experienced Continental disciplinarian was again the best bet.
However, the English coach due to be appointed to work with Capello's Italians will have a head start, which is why Stuart Pearce is being spoken of as favourite. The downside would be losing Pearce's good work at Under-21 level it is impossible to combine the two positions for a role that even Brooking admits is currently rather nebulous: "We have to be careful of what it means. Will the English coach be saying: 'Am I putting out the cones and being merely window dressing or is it a meaningful involvement?' We brought in someone with Sven as a right-hand man and that didn't work. We have Stuart Pearce with the Under-21s getting crucial experience of tournament football for his development. Does he come along on the day of matches and look and watch, or if you parachute someone in, at what level is that?"
There are clearly more questions than answers. Most of those relating to the England set-up will have to be resolved before Capello's first game, at home to Switzerland on 6 February, and therefore before the five-year strategy review commissioned by Barwick is published in March.
This report is being under-taken by Genesis, a consultancy firm based in Glasgow and Dublin, who have compiled a number of reviews for sports bodies, including the Republic of Ireland's 2002 World Cup campaign, when Roy Keane fell out so spectacularly with Mick McCarthy.
Genesis want to talk to Lord Triesman, the Tottenham supporter who has been proposed as the FA's first independent chairman, before submitting what Barwick insists will be "a seriously significant piece of work. In three or four months, if you can look me in the face and say that's a flimsy document that will be stored on the top shelf, I will have failed; and I will not fail on that".
Barwick need not fear the fate of the Football Association of Ireland's general secretary, who resigned after publication. He will be judged, as he well knows, on the results achieved by a certain Fabio Capello.Reuse content