FA prepared to take foreign option

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Coaching ability will be the main criterion for the selection of England's fifth international manager in little more than seven years, according to the the Football Association's chief executive, Adam Crozier.

Coaching ability will be the main criterion for the selection of England's fifth international manager in little more than seven years, according to the the Football Association's chief executive, Adam Crozier.

Experience, on and off the training ground, will come a close second. That should encourage Terry Venables, who reluctantly stepped down from the post after coming close to winning Euro 96, while Arsenal's Arsÿne Wenger could benefit from the FA's readiness to break new ground for any major football nation by appointing from outside their own country - if he was prepared to take on the task.

"We'll make sure that we get someone who's first and foremost a fantastic coach," Crozier said in a BBC television interview yesterday. "And secondly someone who can handle all the pressures that go with the job. What I've realised already is that international management is entirely different from club management and I think it takes a special kind of person to put up with those pressures."

Since the last time an England manager was appointed, 20 months ago, the balance of power at Lancaster Gate has shifted even further away from the myriad committees largely composed of ageing FA councillors. It is understood that Crozier, 36, a Scot who became chief executive earlier this year, the executive director David Davies and the FA chairman Geoff Thompson will make their choice and then sound out the international committee. They would want the backing of the committee, but do not technically need it.

That makes Crozier's pronouncements on the matter all the more significant, and puts him in strong position, if necessary, to over-rule the committee chairman, Noel White, who was one of those most responsible for Venables' departure four years ago. Venables wanted an extension of his contract before Euro 96, whereas the committee preferred to wait on results. Good as they were - England reaching the semi-final before losing to Germany on penalties - it was by then too late to retain Venables, who concentrated for a while on his various legal disputes with the Tottenham chairman, Alan Sugar. Since then he has been chairman of Portsmouth and manager of Crystal Palace, without success, settling more recently for media work but remaining a popular figure because of the feel-good factor of the 1996 tournament, which neither of his successors, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan, were able to replicate for any significant length of time.

Other outstanding English candidates are thin on the ground, especially in the light of Crozier's comment that "It is not a job for someone at the beginning of their career." That would count against younger men such as Peter Taylor, the flavour of the month and probably the manager of the month after taking Leicester City to the top of the table in his first season as a Premiership manager. It is something of an embarrassment to the FA that Taylor has done so well in club football since losing his job as coach to the Under-21 team to Howard Wilkinson, a position that in other countries is frequently a stepping stone to the senior job.

Asked about promising younger English managers last summer, Crozier mentioned Taylor and Sunderland's Peter Reid, who has achieved at least as much at club level as his near-neighbour and playing contemporary, Middlesbrough's Bryan Robson, with fewer resources. Alan Curbishley of Charlton is also well regarded at the FA and has an influential advocate in the director of technical development, Les Reed, who worked with him at The Valley. Peter Beardsley, who resigned from the England set-up yesterday, and David Platt are others of the younger generation who might find a role in future but are not ready yet.

The FA are quite prepared, however, to install a foreigner, which has been done in the past by minor football nations but rarely even been contemplated by the leading European or South American countries.

Wenger and Liverpool's Gérard Houllier would be the most obvious contenders, given their familiarity with English football, ahead of names such as Jean Tigana, Aimé Jacquet, Johan Cruyff, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Marcello Lippi. Slightly less foreign contenders like Sir Alex Ferguson and the current Scotland coach Craig Brown, who made a good impression when England scraped past his team in a Euro 2000 play-off, also meet the criteria of ability and experience, though they would risk excommunication from their country if accepting.

After Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in Finland, England have friendlies in Italy next month and Spain in February and would like the new man to be in place for one, if not both, of those games before the next World Cup double-header, at home to Finland and away to Albania in March.

SIX CONTENDERS TO SUCCEED KEVIN KEEGAN

TERRY VENABLES

Been there, done that, but would almost certainly welcome the opportunity to return if he believed that the FA would support him more whole-heartedly than in 1996. From his appointment in early 1994, he lost only one match (to Brazil), before the fateful penalty shoot-out against Germany at Euro 96.

Odds: 4/1 favourite

ARSENE WENGER

An inspired appointment by Arsenal four years ago, now the outstanding foreign candidate. Deserves a shot at international football, though he has implied in the past that it would not be with England.

Odds: 12/1

PETER REID

Former England World Cup player, who was harshly dismissed by Manchester City, and has revived Sunderland in impressive fashion. More thoughtful than his effing and blinding on the touchline might suggest, but might find the incessant public glare not to his taste.

Odds: 10/1

GERARD HOULLIER

Valuable background with French national side (1988-94) and as technical director, now taking on a job high in expectation at Liverpool - so far with only mixed success. An Anglophile who understands English football in a way that some other foreign candidates might not.

Odds: 33/1

BOBBY ROBSON

At 67, even older and wiser than when he was replaced after eight years in 1990. Not exactly the forward-looking appointment the FA would like, but a short-term solution if the right man was not immediately available or needed to be groomed. A Robson-Peter Beardsley combination would bring an element of continuity.

Odds: 50/1

PETER TAYLOR

A protégé of Glenn Hoddle, his former team-mate at Tottenham. He impressed with the England Under-21 squad, only to fall victim to Howard Wilkinson's empire-building. Needs more time,for political and footballing reasons, and is therefore a better bet as the next-but-one manager.

Odds: 6/1 second favourite

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