Sir Trevor Brooking has backed Steve McClaren as a strong contender to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager – the job he left after overseeing their miserable failure to qualify for Euro 2008 – suggesting that McClaren's initial appointment may have come too early for him.
The Football Association is eager to appoint an Englishman in the role and McClaren's professional rehabilitation is continuing at Wolfsburg, following his Dutch title at Twente. Though the German side have started the Bundesliga season with three defeats in seven, Brooking, the FA's director of football development, cited Sir Bobby Robson and Terry Venables as former occupiers of the manager's seat who have been less "lazy" than some English coaches and, like McClaren, benefited from seeking out jobs on the Continent.
"I am sure if he continues to be a success his name will be in the frame again," Brooking said. "If you think he will be a lot more experienced this time around and he has learnt his lesson, then why not? I wouldn't rule out anyone. I think it would be very unfair to do that."
Brooking was responding to questions on the 49-year-old, rather than raising the prospect of McClaren returning to the post he was relieved of in November 2007. It would certainly take a huge shift of public opinion – and possibly a Bundesliga title – for an individual as discredited as McClaren had become to succeed his own successor for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
But his Dutch title has not gone unnoticed. "PSV [Eindhoven] and Ajax are usually the title-winning sides in Holland and now Wolfsburg are picking up," Brooking added. "It is great for an English coach and we have to try and get more English coaches doing that. Sometimes we are a bit lazy with our language. I watch other coaches and there are people speaking four or five different languages. We have to encourage our coaches to do that so that they go abroad and get that experience if they can."
A paucity of prospective English successors certainly stands in McClaren's favour, but Brooking also moved to rein in the suggestion by the chief executive of Club England, Adrian Bevington, that Capello's successor will be an Englishman. "We definitely want to go that way," Brooking said. "But I am not going to stand here and say who is going to be available at the time. If they are locked into big compensation payments, we will have to work and look at who is available at that time."
The establishment of an English coach to work alongside Capello is part of the process of nurturing potential successors for when the Italian leaves his post in 2012. This plan is not advancing quickly, with the prospect of having such an individual with the squad for next Tuesday's Montenegro game now ruled out by Brooking.
Contrary to reports, there has been no approach to Paul Ince – who, with Alan Curbishley, is among the prospective coaches currently out of work. Behind the scenes, the FA is also grappling with the problem of how to select someone for the shadow role without that individual – or indeed the nation – assuming that he is being groomed as a successor. The FA has also concluded that inviting a serving manager, such as Roy Hodgson or Harry Redknapp, is also out of the question. "The difficulty... is people assume [the appointed coach] is the next manager," Brooking said. "We had Steve [McClaren] who came in with Sven [Goran Eriksson] and people assumed that. We had it with Peter Taylor and Sammy [Lee.] The problem [with club managers] is that the manager's team loses 4-0 at the weekend ahead of international week and [fans ask], 'Why is he going away with the England set up? He should be sorting out our defence'. Club priorities come first. You can have the best arrangements in the world and then suddenly two bad results and what was going to happen doesn't happen."
McClaren became the first English manager to get a team into the Champions League since Robson with Newcastle United in 2002, when he took Twente into the elite tournament last season. He has tried to shut the England international set-up out of his new life, telling The Independent before the World Cup finals that he had not caught any of the side's games under Capello and that he was revelling in anonymity. "When I look back in years to come [at England] I'll think 'Great experience'. I wish it was better but what an experience. What can be worse? What can they throw at you?" he said in that interview.
Brooking seems to agree, suggesting that both McClaren and Glenn Hoddle, manager from 1996 to 1999, may have advanced to the position too early. "I think if you asked Steve, he [would say he] wanted that little bit more experience and I think that is why he has gone abroad."
Capello's successor may inherit a far more technically gifted squad than Capello, if the rich, technical capabilities of the Under-19 side, who set about qualification for next year's European Championship finals in Belgium from Friday, attain their full potential.
The squad includes Chelsea's Josh McEachran, Everton's Ross Barkley, Liverpool's Andre Wisdom and Ipswich Town's Connor Wickham – all fast-tracked from the Under-17 age-group who won their European Championship with such style in May. They face their first round of qualifiers in a round-robin, playing Albania on Friday, Cyprus on Sunday and the host team on Wednesday. The top two will participate in the elite qualifying round next spring for a place in the finals.
How McClaren has fared since leaving England
* Steve McClaren left England in November 2007 and took over at Dutch club FC Twente in June 2008. Despite an early Champions League exit at the hands of Arsenal, he led the club to second in the Eredivisie and the Dutch Cup final, which they lost on penalties.
* In his second season, McClaren became the first Twente manager to win the Dutch title and was named manager of the year. It was the first title won by an English manager in a major European league in 14 years, since Sir Bobby Robson did it with Porto in 1996
* McClaren left Twente in May to join German side Wolfsburg, who sit eighth in the Bundesliga after a mixed start.