FA begins hunt for Eriksson's successor

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The Independent Online

The Football Association will today take the first step towards finding a successor to Sven Goran Eriksson when its board meet to appoint a "head-hunting" team tasked with identifying and hiring a new England manager.

The four-man group will report to the FA's chairman, Geoff Thompson, and will probably comprise the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, its international committee chairman, Noel White, the Premier League chairman Dave Richards, who is also vice-chairman of the international committee, and, probably, the Arsenal vice-chairman, David Dein, who was influential in hiring Eriksson.

It is understood that Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, will act as an adviser to Barwick in the search. There will be no discussions about individual candidates, although Barwick will outline his thoughts on how the group should go about its search. No decision has been made as to whether the headhunters will be briefed to seek an English manager, nor will any such decision be taken today.

Guus Hiddink yesterday became the bookmakers' favourite for the post after reports that Eriksson had told fellow diners at a private dinner in Sweden that the Dutchman would get the job. A well-placed source dismissed the report as "tittle-tattle" and insisted that Eriksson, in conversation with friends, had at most offered a personal opinion about who he thought might be chosen, with "no inside knowledge" involved.

The FA insisted yesterday that the selection process had not yet started. Other leading candidates include three Englishmen in Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley and Steve McClaren, as well as a Northern Irishman, Martin O'Neill, and a Brazilian, Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The FA's board of 12 members plus Thompson and Barwick has not met since the News of the World's "fake sheikh" sting hastened the announcement of Eriksson's departure. Barwick is expected to receive backing for the action he took in confirming the Swede would go after the World Cup.

Ticketless fans hoping to travel to Germany for the finals appeared to receiveda boost yesterday when the tournament's organisers said that more tickets might become available for England supporters.

Each participating nation was assigned eight per cent of the tickets for each match, and the FA's allocation has been massively oversubscribed. But Horst Schmidt, the vice-president of the World Cup organising committee, said that not every federation had sold its share, and some tickets would be redistributed.

"Naturally, this does not fit the huge demand from big footballing nations like England or Holland, but we hope it will be understood as a sign of goodwill," Schmidt said.

Frank Lampard has been voted the England Player of the Year for 2005, beating Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. England have been voting via the FA website for the past month and the Chelsea midfielder Lampard was the clear winner with 29 per cent. Gerrard and Rooney were second and third with 18 per cent and 16 per cent.

Eriksson described Lampard as "one of the most improved players I have seen in the last few years". The Swede added: "Frank has had an excellent football education both from his family and from West Ham and Chelsea."

Lampard's Chelsea team-mate, the goalkeeper Petr Cech, has signed a two-year contract extension to stay at Stamford Bridge until 2010.

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