Brooking plays the guru and go-between

Euro 2004 draw: Vital role for old England favourite as debate over Eriksson's future intrudes on Lisbon ceremony

The official Football Association diary no longer includes a list of senior staff, which is probably just as well - the newly cost-conscious organisation would forever be sending out updates and amendments. As it is, another lucrative television deal might have to be negotiated just to cover the constant cost of new letterheads and business cards.

Just like their 40,000 clubs, so with the FA, it seems, a change at the top means comings and goings all the way down the ladder. Just as a new club manager, chairman or chief executive wants his own favoured personnel around him, Mark Palios has been shaping his team to suit his personal preferences four months into the job, and will be closer to what he wants once the front door at Soho Square has stopped banging to and fro in the new year. Perhaps the world's most powerful domestic football organisation can then settle down to the period of stability they desperately need after more than a year of uncertainty following the ousting of Adam Crozier last autumn.

The most dramatic change in last week's reshuffle was the rightly applauded appointment of Trevor Brooking in a new role as director of football development, with responsibilities all the way up the football pyramid, from local parks and schools to the England team he represented with such distinction 47 times. The emphasis is on the word "development", and he will have much to say about bringing up and bringing on young footballers; conflict could arise early if he favours resurrecting the National Football Centre at Burton upon Trent, currently a victim of the savage cost-cutting imposed after Crozier's departure. Yesterday he said his priorities would include lobbying the Government for more funds and increasing the amount of PE in schools. He will also be instrumental in identifying an eventual successor to Sven Goran Eriksson.

It is not intended that Brooking will take over the duties of technical director, on which a salary has been saved since Howard Wilkinson resigned in the same month as Crozier for his ill-fated dalliance with Sunderland. Wilkinson's deputy, Les Reed, the former Charlton Athletic coach, is still doing the job in an acting capacity, which currently involves leading a seriously understrength England Under-20 team at the World Youth Championship in Dubai. He will doubtless want to bend the Brooking ear as soon as he returns about the lack of co-operation from leading clubs in releasing players for that trip and similar under-age matches.

That sort of liaison between clubs and the FA is an area in which Brooking can use all the respect he has earned down the years to badly needed effect. As the recent dramas over Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith have shown, there is a similar role to be filled at full international level and, significantly, one FA insider pointed yesterday to Brooking's importance as "a conduit between the administrative side and the football team". Paul Barber, who had been doubling up as director of marketing and communications, found himself involved in that role during the recent disputes, and although he won praise from players and media for his dealings with both groups, there is no place for him in the Palios team.

Meanwhile, Eriksson and the players may - or may not - be as amused as everyone else by the appointment as communications director of a sports editor whose newspaper, the Daily Mail, famously derided the decision to appoint a foreign coach, called the squad "traitors" and last week suggested with an apparently straight face that Clive Woodward was ready to take Eriksson's job.

The coach has rather more to concern him this weekend, following Palios's untimely revelation that a new contract is now on offer to run right up to the 2008 European Championship. The chief executive decided soon after taking office in July that Eriksson was the man for the long term, and hints were first dropped about a contract extension the following month. But the Swede has proved reluctant to commit himself publicly even beyond next summer, when many feel he will return to club football in this country or in Italy.

Now the spotlight after today's Euro 2004 draw will inevitably shine on his future plans as much as next June's opponents. Brooking appeared to appreciate that point yesterday when he said: "If anything happens in the new year about a contract then fine, but everyone's job is to take any distraction away from Sven and the players so they can perform well."

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