Prime contenders declare no desire for 'impossible job'

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The Football Association gleaned a measure of how hard it will be to find a successor to Kevin Keegan yesterday when six of the leading dozen candidates for his job either ruled themselves out or had their employers do it for them.

The Football Association gleaned a measure of how hard it will be to find a successor to Kevin Keegan yesterday when six of the leading dozen candidates for his job either ruled themselves out or had their employers do it for them.

While Leicester City's Peter Taylor, Sunderland's Peter Reid and Middlesbrough's Bryan Robson all said that now was not the time for them to make the transition from club to national management, three of the older, more experienced possibilities were also effectively taken out of running.

France's former national coach, Aimé Jacquet, said he had no desire to return to top-level football. Newcastle's Bobby Robson said he would "answer the call" but his chairman said he would not be leaving his post. Arsenal's chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, said that the FA had his permission to approach Arsÿne Wenger, but added: "He would be crazy to take it. And Arsÿne Wenger is not crazy."

Which leaves, of the bookmakers' top 12 favourites to take the poisoned chalice, Terry Venables, John Gregory, Alan Curbishley, Sir Alex Ferguson, Marcello Lippi and Howard Wilkinson. None of them immediately meets all the FA's criteria - popularity in the international community, no club ties that cannot easily be broken and an extensive knowledge of English players - except perhaps Wilkinson. He, for the moment, is looking no further than tomorrow's World Cup qualifier with Finland, so yesterday was very much a day for other candidates to make their positions clear.

"Merely having my name linked to the job is an absolute honour," Taylor said at a press conference at Leicester's training ground. "One day I would love to manage England but this is too early for me. For now I've got a three-year contract with Leicester."

Taylor, who successfully managed the England Under-21 side for three years before taking Gillingham to the First Division last season and Leicester to top of the Premiership last month, added: "I've only been here four months and I owe it to the players to see it out."

Bryan Robson was also adamant he did not want the job. "My name is not in the hat," he said. "I've said before, if I get offered, or would like the job of England manager, I want to have experience behind me as a league manager and, hopefully, success as one. Once I have that experience and, hopefully, success behind me, then I would maybe consider it."

Reid's sentiments were similar, and he added that the pressure of the England job was another reason he was not ready to be considered. "If I lose two games on the trot here I get a bit of stick locally. If I did that with England, I wouldn't be able to go for a night out."

His chairman, Bob Murray, added: "Peter is an established and respected Premiership manager and only wants to continue to devote his future to Sunderland, establishing the team as a force in the top flight."

Jacquet guided France to their 1998 World Cup win and is now the national technical director for the French Federation. He said yesterday: "I have no intention to return to the playing field in high-level soccer in England, or elsewhere. At the French Federation, I am pursuing passionate work with the coaches. That is fully sufficient for me."

Bobby Robson said: "If I received a telephone call from someone at Lancaster Gate in the next few days, I would answer it." His chairman, Freddy Shepherd, insisted however that his manager's comments were merely good-natured support for the FA and nothing else. "He is under contract to Newcastle and that is the end of it."

Hill-Wood said that Wenger is "too sensible" to take the job, even if he was offered it. "If the FA approach me, I would give them permission to talk to him, but I can tell them he wouldn't say 'yes'. I can't believe he would want to do it. Why would he? It's an impossible job to do."

And, for the moment, an impossible position to fill.

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