The Football Association have not yet finalised the compensation with Middlesbrough for Steve McClaren, but the England manager's job now seems little more than a formality for the man who is 45 today. He will face Sam Allardyce's Bolton team at the Reebok Stadium tonight with the job his to turn down.
The FA are expected to have to pay the Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, around £1.75m for McClaren with the new manager earning an annual salary of £3m. The package will have to be rubber-stamped by the FA's main board who meet today but no problems are expected. With the Luiz Felipe Scolari saga now fading, opposition to McClaren's appointment would be viewed as counter-productive.
As for Allardyce, the race appears to be over although his impassioned plea to be considered on Sunday after defeat to Tottenham has not gone ignored. Yesterday Allardyce, whose presentation to the FA's five-man committee was judged the most impressive of all, said that he realised his chances were now very slim.
"Steve looks odds-on favourite and slightly ahead of me in the running," Allardyce said. "He will be looking to clinch that position. But who knows? I haven't given up hope that it is going to me.
"I have not heard anything officially but we should know by the end of the week." Should he be overlooked for the job Allardyce has admitted he would consider a role in the England coaching set-up but he is not hopeful that he would be welcomed on board. "Anything to do with England would be extremely positive from my point of view," the Bolton manager said. "But I don't think the person who clinched that position would want to see me on the coaching staff, knowing I wanted the job." Allardyce was also adamant that his ambition to become England manager had not been the reason for Bolton's indifferent form in the run-in. He said: "During the day I might reflect on the position that is available and what it would mean for me to get it, what would I do and how would I start.
"But it has not been a distraction from getting the side ready and doing my job. While our results have been poor, our performances have been excellent." Bolton may have to settle for a place in the Intertoto Cup following the defeat at Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend. With a home match to come against relegated Birmingham City on Sunday, Allardyce is looking for maximum points. He said: "We need to finish off with two victories at home. If we play like we did at Tottenham we will get something from the game against Middlesbrough."
McClaren's former mentor Jim Smith has warned the Middlesbrough manager against accepting the position. Smith, currently Oxford United manager, gave McClaren his break in management when he recruited him as first-team coach at Derby County in 1995. But the 65-year-old thinks his ex-pupil will suffer as his predecessors have from pressure at the hands of the media.
"I've spoken to him and advised him not to take it, but he doesn't listen to me nowadays," Smith said yesterday. "I said to him, 'I don't know what you're doing wanting it because you've already seen that you tend to get on the front pages as well as the back pages'." However, Smith did say that if McClaren took it he would be a success. "He's a bright, astute young man and I'm sure he'd do well," he said.