As the four wise men of what we must learn to call "Club England" consider approaching Tottenham about Harry Redknapp's availability to become national team manager, one of them has spoken for the first time about the overwhelming favourite for the position. "We understand the hype," the Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, said of the popular clamour for Redknapp. "The guy's done amazingly, he's a fine manager and he's English. But we need to handle things in a sensible, businesslike way." A meeting of the four Club England headhunters – Sir Trevor Brooking, Adrian Bevington and Alex Horne are the others involved – took place on Friday.
If and when a formal approach is made to Spurs, the London club's minimum demand will be to recoup the £5m compensation that sources confirmed they paid to Portsmouth to secure him in 2008.
"We won't be penny pinching," Bernstein promised on that issue. "We will pay what we need to pay and we'll have to assess what the position is with any particular manager and his club." The FA are keen not to be held to ransom, however, and want to be seen to undertaking a rigorous process of considering other candidates. It is clear that compensation costs would increase further if, as expected, Redknapp wanted to follow the trend of taking staff with him. Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan both moved from Portsmouth to White Hart Lane when he did.
Redknapp's work since then, and the style in which Spurs have played, have made him odds-on favourite to succeed Fabio Capello. Given the preference for a British manager, he is clubhouse leader by several shots.
He fulfils further criteria desired by Club England – in being at the experienced end of the age range (64), having players' respect and being enthusiastic about the development of young English talent. The latter quality, never apparent in foreign managers only interested in their own short-term contract, is considered particularly important now that the national football centre at Burton is at long last becoming a reality. The new manager will be expected to spend a lot of time there as well as taking a keener interest in England's younger age-groups.
"It's a fantastic opportunity, enhanced by St George's Park," Bernstein said. "What's happening in English football makes it potentially a great moment in time for a manager, maybe easier than in the past. Although there's huge pressures, you could say it's more suited to an older person than club management where demands are incessant."
Those demands make it impractical to work for England on a part-time basis as well, as even Under-21 coaches like Peter Taylor and Stuart Pearce discovered. Pearce will take charge for the forthcoming friendly against Holland at Wembley but Redknapp has already ruled out the possibility of taking over after that while Tottenham are competing for a return to the Champions' League. Their last match of their season is on Sunday 13 May, a fortnight before England play a warm-up match in Norway. The final deadline to name squads for the European Championship is the following Tuesday 29 May, after which England play one more game, at home to Belgium.
The next man in will be the 13th full-time England manager, and some of the previous dozen may be surprised to hear Bernstein rhapsodising about the job as "magnificent... wonderful... fantastic". He did admit that the position was also "incredibly challenging" but maintained that England's miserable record of one tournament win and three semi-finals in over 60 years was an incentive rather than a drawback: "The fact that we haven't had huge successes over the last few years is the opportunity. Whoever comes in, if he can get to a semi or do something, he hasn't got to win the World Cup to be successful. So I think it's a fantastic job."
The belief within the FA is that work done by Brooking and Gareth Southgate will begin to show results before too long. "The work these guys have done is beginning to bear fruition," Bernstein said. "We've got a moment in time where a new England manager can fit in with the prestige of that position and the interest in English football. The English manager has a very special position in English life and if we can find the sort of guy who has the desire to plug into what's going to be happening that should be a really positive combination."
Meanwhile, Capello leaves as the most statistically successful England manager by a street. His premature departure without rescuing his reputation may tempt him to take one more job, whether for prestige in Serie A or for money in Russia or China. Bernstein remains unrepentant about both the FA's attitude to John Terry and the captaincy issue and Capello's lack of involvement in the decision-making, which is what is understood to have annoyed the Italian most. "I think what we've done is right and we'd do the same thing again," the FA chairman said.
Bevington is particularly keen to plan for the longer term. As for the shorter term and the appointment process he said: "We've learnt it's better when there's a small tight group working together, and we'll go back to the board once we've determined who we want to approach."