Hiddink falling behind in England reckoning

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The Independent Football

Guus Hiddink's agent said yesterday that there has been no deal struck with the Russian football federation for his client to take over their national team next season ­ but with the Dutch coach short of backers in the Football Association, his chances of being approached for the England job are fading fast.

Hiddink's agent, Cees van Nieuwenhuizen, said yesterday that Hiddink had no agreement with the Russians to take over next season after his contract with the Australian national team expires. With one year left on his contract at PSV Eindhoven after this season, Hiddink is well aware that the three-man FA committee charged with devising the selection procedure for a new manager believe he should be British.

The leaking of reports to Russian newspapers that Hiddink was about to reach an agreement with their federation president, Vitali Mutko, was intended to spur the FA to action but instead it looks like the Dutchman will only be an alternative to the favourite, Martin O'Neill. The FA selection committee will meet with the main board on 27 February to explain the process for appointing the new manager.

Increasingly, O'Neill appears the first choice of the FA and the job will be his to turn down. Last week's comments from Dave Richards, the chairman of the Premier League and member of the selection committee, who said that he wanted a British manager have made it clear to O'Neill that he has the advantage and can afford to wait to hear the FA's offer.

The FA is keen that, should O'Neill eventually decide that he cannot take the job, the alternative does not feel like a second choice. To that end, the likes of Sam Allardyce, Stuart Pearce and Alan Curbishley are also likely to be spoken to by the governing body.

The former Tottenham manager Gerry Francis has been sounded out about the job, and the odds on the former England caretaker manager Peter Taylor also fell yesterday prompting speculation that the Hull coach had been approached.

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