Newcastle veto Robson move

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Newcastle ruled Bobby Robson out of taking over as England coach on a caretaker basis last night. The Football Association, who have Arsÿne Wenger firmly at the top of their wish-list for a long-term replacement for Kevin Keegan, had asked Newcastle for permission to approach Robson to take over the running of the national side for an interim period, but the board unanimously rejected the request.

Newcastle ruled Bobby Robson out of taking over as England coach on a caretaker basis last night. The Football Association, who have Arsÿne Wenger firmly at the top of their wish-list for a long-term replacement for Kevin Keegan, had asked Newcastle for permission to approach Robson to take over the running of the national side for an interim period, but the board unanimously rejected the request.

Robson, 67, who would probably have been asked to do the job in conjunction with a younger partner like Leicester City's Peter Taylor, had discussions with his club chairman, Freddy Shepherd, after Newcastle's home defeat by Everton yesterday. Both men left the ground soon afterwards without any further comment. Subsequently a statement from the club said the FA had wanted Robson for seven games (a figure later denied by the FA), but the club were refusing.

"Mr Robson has been informed of the decision and accepts it," the statement said.

The FA turned to Robson because they know that their long-term choice is unlikely to be available immediately. That choice remains Wenger. Though the Arsenal manager has emphasised that he intends to see out his contract, which expires in two years, the erudite Frenchman is seen as the ideal candidate for England coach, satisfying all the criteria which were laid down by the FA's selection committee on Thursday, but also being a man who would be acceptable to those who coach and play in the English professional game and the supporters.

A manager like John Gregory is an excellent barometer of opinion within the game. He told me this week: "If it has to be a non-British coach, there is only one candidate - the professor. That's my name for Wenger. There's no doubt he has got a lot of credentials."

The FA appear adamant that their search should not be restricted by national boundaries. Excellence is the absolute prerequisite. There is much commonsense in that. Yet, without the implicit consent and support of the English game, such an appointment could end in acrimony when judgement day arrives and results do not quickly endorse the appointee's qualities.

If Wenger could be persuaded, he would be asked to work with one or possibly two assistants from amongst the ranks of young English Premiership managers. Taylor and Alan Curbishley would be considered. The net would possibly be cast further, with a player being fast-tracked into a coaching role. The name of Tony Adams would be considered particularly suitable in Wenger's case.

If Wenger insists on honouring his Highbury contract, then it is possible that the FA will turn to the highly successful Lazio coach Sven Goran Eriksson, though consideration of a foreign coach unfamiliar to the general public of a nation which is notoriously insular in its attitude to foreign players and coaches, would be an enormous gamble for the seven-strong selection team, who are, in a sense, on trial themselves.

Another alternative is Roy Hodgson, the Englishman who achieved so much with the Swiss national team was highly thought of at Internazionale, and would have been a certain contender if he had not endured that torrid spell at Blackburn. Hodgson is currently in charge of FC Copenhagen and is another tied to a two-year contract. Terry Venables, who appears excluded by the FA's demanding list of criteria, and the current FA technical director Howard Wilkinson, have apparently been ruled out.

Comments