McClaren in front of O'Neill on FA shortlist

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The Independent Online

Martin O'Neill and Steve McClaren are the leading contenders to succeed Sven Goran Eriksson as the England manager and among the tasks facing the new man, the Football Association will expect him to overhaul the England coaching set-up for young players working their way through the junior national teams.

Yesterday, the Middlesbrough manager, McClaren, whose team have reached the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup, was the bookmakers' favourite to get the job with O'Neill in second place. The second round of interviews will finish at the end of this week before the five-man committee led by the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, decide on a first choice to present to the FA board.

The Football Association, especially Trevor Brooking, the director of football development, are eager to change the coaching system for those players who represent England at Under-16 through to Under-20 level. The players in those teams are predominantly still at academy level with their clubs and there is concern about the level of coaching they receive while on international duty.

In the age groups up to Under-20 there are only a handful of players with first team experience, and there is an eagerness to get these teams playing in the same formation as the senior side. It will be the responsibility of the new England manager to keep a close watch on the development of promising young players.

The new England manager will be asked to "coach the coaches" and make sure that those in charge of the junior teams share a vision of the way in which the game should be played at international level. The present system was established by former FA technical director Howard Wilkinson, but more recently there has been a concern that the coaching staff have not moved with the times.

As manager of the senior England team, Eriksson has remained a peripheral figure in training, allowing McClaren and Sammy Lee to take charge of sessions while he watches from the sidelines. Eriksson has busied himself watching matches instead ­ 73 this season including one England Under-19 match according to the FA ­ but he has never sought to change the FA coaching structure beyond affairs concerning the senior team.

With McClaren now responsible for what promises to be a whole new generation of home-grown Middlesbrough players, his track record has impressed senior figures at the Football Association. While the candidates were warned by Brooking yesterday that the decision that would not be swayed simply by a manager's recent results, McClaren's record in development ­ at Manchester United as well as Derby County ­ will count in his favour.

Brooking said: "You try to make it a fair process and recent results won't sway that. You will not make a judgement on the next few weeks or the last few, you make a judgement on a person over a period of time."

Guus Hiddink, an early favourite for the England job, yesterday accepted a role coaching the Russia national team after he completes his season with PSV Eindhoven and takes Australia to the World Cup.

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