The debate over who succeeds Fabio Capello as England manager in two years' time is set to intensify after an admission by the Football Association director of football development, Trevor Brooking, that it will not be Steve McClaren after all.
Brooking recently suggested that McClaren, who lasted just 17 months before being replaced by Capello, could return for a second spell in the hotseat after rebuilding his reputation in Holland by taking FC Twente to the title for the first time before moving on to Wolfsburg in Germany.
But Brooking told The Independent on Sunday that he never meant McClaren would be brought back as soon as Capello leaves his £6m-a-year post after the 2012 European Championship finals, rather that he would be looked upon a couple of appointments later to eventually come back into the fray. "Steve had a really difficult time and in years to come might be looked on as the ideal age to do the job again," said Brooking. "But 2012 would be too early for him to come back. He himself wants to get more experience."
So who then? Harry Redknapp is the punters' choice and, crucially, an Englishman, a pre-requisite for the job. The problem is finding the right man as clubs look to lock in any manager of talent on a long-term contract.
"Ideally we would still want an English coach but it's all about availability," says Brooking. "There is an argument that says if we can't appoint an English coach for our national team, why would big clubs appoint English coaches? Longer-term, we'd like to take the lead and appoint English coaches – not just once but on a regular basis."
He insists that any new appointment should ideally go hand in hand with the completion of the much-troubled National Football Centre at Burton. "There is a crucial link between the two in terms of maximising player development. I'd like to get the green light before the end of this year so it can be up and running by the 2012 Euro finals. It would be nice if the squad could stay there before they fly out to Poland and Ukraine – provided we qualify, of course."
Whoever succeeds Capello, Brooking is convinced more quality English players will become available for selection due to an inevitable decline in the foreign invasion. He thinks overseas players might start to get discouraged from moving to the Premier League because of the 50 per cent tax bracket, while clubs will be unwilling to pay prohibitive transfer fees caused by the pound's weakness against the Euro.
"It's going to cost 35 per cent more to get the same player. Secondly, players are going to be asking what their net tax figure is. The result is that there will be a demand for more English players. We can certainly produce players who are technically comparable to the young talent abroad. What we haven't done so far is find enough of it, both in terms of quality and quantity."
He is not convinced the 25-player squad rules, which allow clubs to add an unlimited number of under-21s, will bring through more England hopefuls. "Are they going to play? Training with experienced players helps but in the end it's about dealing with the pressure of competitive games."
As England bid to host the 2018 World Cup, much has been made of the need to appoint a full-time FA chairman to succeed Lord Triesman, who resigned last May amid bribery allegations. Roger Burden remains acting chairman but Brooking doubts any permanent appointment will be made before the 2 December World Cup vote. "Nothing will happen until the New Year, once we know whether we have won the bid."