David Gill favourite to succeed Barwick

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The Independent Football

David Gill has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Brian Barwick as the FA chief executive.

The Manchester United chief executive is already a board member at the FA and would receive strong backing from many inside the organisation.

The vacancy comes following the news that Barwick will leave at the end of December after failing to resolve his differences with Lord Triesman, the Labour peer, who took over as FA chairman in January.

Barwick today said he hopes improved on-pitch behaviour will be the legacy of his time as FA chief executive.

Rather than take stock of an organisation that has always been viewed as ultra-conservative, Lord Triesman has whistled through Soho Square like a whirlwind.

Barwick has been uprooted by the storm and with key elements of his job changing almost weekly, both parties realised it would be impossible to maintain a long-term partnership, triggering last night's announcement, which came less than half an hour after England's tame draw with the Czech Republic.

If nothing else, at least Barwick could look on with pride as England's players kept their composure.

For, if the former TV executive has done nothing else - and in fairness he has done quite a lot - he has latched onto the desire to see a change in player behaviour, with his 'Respect' the referee campaign now in full flow.

"We have moved the organisation on leaps and bounds, and that is really important," he said.

"If I have a genuine legacy - and we were sitting in a big stadium last night - the Respect programme is very special to me.

"In this sort of job you have an opportunity to make a difference - and if I, in a very small way, improved behaviour on and off the pitch, that will do me."

Despite his background - or maybe because of it - Barwick has not craved contact with the press, which may mean his work will be viewed in a negative light.

However, his list of credits is extensive. Wembley, Respect, record TV deals, the National Football Centre in Burton, improved coaching at junior levels. Barwick can take some of the plaudits for all these developments.

For many though, the FA is about England. And on that score, Barwick gets a big cross against his name.

Replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson was a disaster. First Barwick publicly courted Luiz Felipe Scolari, believing he had got his man before he was humiliatingly rejected.

Few believed his eventual statement that Steve McClaren was the number one choice. And what a disaster McClaren's appointment proved to be anyway.

Then, in accepting the lack of a suitable home-grown candidate, Barwick went for Fabio Capello to guide England to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Now, it would be unwise, unjust and downright stupid to judge the Italian on the basis of five friendly games, especially as four wins from four competitive matches before Barwick departs will put England in pole position to go through, but a feeling is starting to grow that Capello, paid a salary commensurate with his vast CV, may not have all the answers after all.

And that may be how Barwick is eventually viewed, getting all the important decisions right, only to botch the main one.

Still, unlike Graham Kelly, Adam Crozier and Mark Palios he will not leave with either his reputation or that of the FA tainted by scandal.

"It is obviously time for a new chapter at the Football Association," he told Sky Sports News.

"I only wish it well. It is a terrific place, full of terrific people."

The FA's chief operating officer Alex Horne would appear to be in pole position to take on the job as many of Barwick's functions have been passed to him already.

But, with boos ringing out around Wembley for last night's dismal display, Capello must acknowledge it is Lord Triesman who needs to be impressed by the team he puts out, not the man who announced his arrival last December.

"It is not my job, it is the decision of the board," said Capello, when asked for his reaction to Barwick's exit.

"I am a friend of Brian and the chairman."

It is probably just as well.