David Bernstein was widely regarded as the safety-first choice when he was selected to succeed Lord Triesman as chairman of the Football Association in late 2010 as the governing body lurched towards the end of another troublesome year.
Many saw David Dein, a former vice-chairman of Arsenal and the FA, as the best man for the job, the ideal candidate to strip out the blazered coterie and introduce a bolder, fresher approach to governing the game. But it was Bernstein who the board turned to and the suggestion was they had looked to one of their own. The initial impression was of an underwhelming appointment. At an unofficial dinner to meet the media not long after he took office he came across as guarded (some might say unsurprisingly so) and not somebody ready to begin root-and-branch reform of an organisation that was receiving flak from all sides, supporters, the media, government.
Since the 68-year-old – "I don't think I'm too old," he said yesterday when asked whether the FA needed someone younger than Harry Redknapp to fulfil the role the chairman and his Club England colleagues were laying out – took over he has steadily and surely transformed opinion and begun to transform the FA too.
Born in St Helens, Bernstein grew up supporting Manchester City –he went to the 1956 FA Cup final despite it coinciding with his Bar Mitzvah. Some 42 years later, having established a successful business career with the likes of French Connection – he was the company's chairman when it launched its controversial but effective fcuk campaign – he became City's chairman.
He spent five years in the job, stabilising the club as they climbed from the third tier of English football back to the Premier League. Crucially he secured a favourable move to the City of Manchester Stadium from Maine Road, a deal without which City would never have become a takeover target for Sheikh Mansour and his billions.
He played an important role too in getting the Wembley Stadium project back on track, where he worked alongside Alex Horne, now the FA's general secretary. Horne and Bernstein make up half the Club England set-up who will today begin the process of selecting the next England manager. Adrian Bevington, the managing director, and Sir Trevor Brooking, director of football development, complete the quartet.
It was just as Bernstein was settling into his new office at Wembley last year, that Hugh Robertson, the sports minister, condemned the governance of football in England. It was aimed squarely at the FA. Yesterday Robertson had this to say: "The FA have handled it well and David Bernstein is a class act."