The search for the new England manager got under way yesterday, although the exclusion of David Dein from the three-man committee charged with beginning the process will not necessarily mean the Football Association has targeted Arsène Wenger as the man they want for the job.
The FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, the Premier League chairman, Dave Richards, and international committee chairman, Noel White, are expected to present to the FA main board a process by which the new man should be selected at the next meeting on 27 February. They will want to speak to more than one candidate but will be at pains to explain that these meetings are not to be considered as formal interviews for the job.
The most complicated, secretive headhunting job in British sport will be led by Barwick, although it is not clear whether the chief executive, who took over just a year ago, will make the final decision. Richards is a powerful voice who will speak on behalf of the Premiership clubs and White, a Liverpool director, represents the more traditional element of the FA - but they will not be the only individuals whose views are taken into consideration.
Dein, the Arsenal vice-chairman, will also be consulted having taken a leading role in the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson, although one of the basic principles is to keep the club chairmen distant from the process. Although the FA would like to take its time over the appointment they are aware that Newcastle United have now entered the market for a new manager and that could affect the future of Martin O'Neill or even Guus Hiddink.
The three-man committee will have to try to keep the process as secretive as possible while also making sure that they have a new man signed up before the start of the World Cup finals in June. While White is believed to favour an Englishman for the job, there has been very little formal discussion of candidates among the more influential officials at the FA.
The 11-man international board traditionally led the way in finding a new England manager but with the post now fraught with even greater pressures it was thought that a smaller board would be more efficient in overseeing the process. On the international board itself is the Ipswich Town chairman, David Sheepshanks, Dein and the Blackburn Rovers' chairman, Robert Coar, who are all well-established FA councillors.
The headhunting committee
BRIAN BARWICK (Chief executive, FA)
In the job only a year but thought to have handled the "fake sheikh" scandal as well as could be expected. Believes his greatest asset is his man-management skills. Will need them to bring consensus to the FA's board on the appointment of a new manager.
DAVE RICHARDS (Chairman, Premier League)
One of the most powerful men in football, alongside chief executive Richard Scudamore. Not bad for a man who, as chairman, left Sheffield Wednesday just before their relegation in 2000. Good friends with the Minister for Sport Richard Caborn.
NOEL WHITE (Liverpool director)
Like his fellow Anfield board members, he tends to regard himself as part of a secret society. Little is known about his opinions on who should take the job, but was one of those at Liverpool who interviewed Alan Curbishley to succeed Gérard Houllier.Reuse content