FA spoilt for choice over top job... well not exactly

If the FA decides to appoint an English manager to take over from Eriksson, it has an overwhelming lack of options. <i>Tim Rich</i> looks at possible choices
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The Independent Football

If, as some in the Football Association are suggesting, it is time to return to the principle that an England football team should be managed by an Englishman, then the poverty of choice is crushing.

If, as some in the Football Association are suggesting, it is time to return to the principle that an England football team should be managed by an Englishman, then the poverty of choice is crushing.

When, in the Jubilee summer of 1977, Don Revie became the first but not the last England manager to leave the job on a wave of controversy, the FA had the following to select from as a replacement: Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Bobby Robson, Ron Greenwood, Ron Saunders, Ron Atkinson (it was a good year for Rons). All had won or were to win major trophies. Three would win or had won their own domestic championship. In addition, there were coaches of the calibre of Jimmy Armfield, Dave Sexton and Gordon Milne, plus the motivational zeal of Jack Charlton. Only one club, Arsenal, was not managed by an Englishman.

The thought of appointing, say, Udo Lattek, who had coached Bayern Munich to three successive European Cups would have been as likely as inviting Valéry Giscard d'Estaing to lead the Labour Party.

As Geoff Thompson, the chairman, and the rest of the FA think about life after Sven Goran Eriksson, they will ponder a very thin cast list. Of the current Premiership, there are 10 clubs managed by Englishmen. It seems a reasonable number until you realise that two, Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan have already managed England while the rest can boast one League Cup between them.

Micky Adams remarked ruefully that the only way an Englishman would become a Premiership manager was if he took his side to promotion, which explains why Iain Dowie, Nigel Worthington and Gary Megson's names are in the list. Three major Premiership clubs changed managers in the summer and all selected foreigners.

Maybe it is xenophobia to object to England being led by an Englishman, although as Gérard Houllier pointed out when Eriksson took over, it would be unthinkable for the French to appoint an outsider. It is the same in every major footballing power.

The stop-gap option of the two knights, Robson and Trevor Brooking, appears at first bizarre. If Eriksson falls on his sword, Brooking will immediately take over temporarily: the mechanism is already in place. That Brooking's only management experience was the valiant attempt to keep West Ham in the Premiership should be no bar.

He is a very hard man, who built up his own business in his twenties and as chairman of Sport England he reduced the minister for sport, Richard Caborn, to mush with a tirade of invective, which delayed his knighthood by a year. The real question is why he would want Robson alongside him?

From this flimsy list of Englishmen there is one obvious favourite and it is the man with the League Cup, Steve McClaren. If, as the FA has often claimed, it wants to use the French as a model, with high-class technical academies and smooth paths of succession, then McClaren is the screamingly obvious choice. He has worked closely with Eriksson, been at Manchester United when they embraced the treble and affects the air Arsène Wenger might have had, had he been born in York rather than Alsace. As his chairman, Steve Gibson, discovered when McClaren was ready to quit Middlesbrough to succeed David O'Leary at Leeds in 2002, he is fiercely ambitious.

There is much talk of a wave of "young English managers" although only three - McClaren, Steve Bruce and Alan Curbishley - have the required experience, though none has overseen a single European match.

Curbishley has long been talked about as the coming man, although charges that Eriksson's departure, if and when it comes, is too soon for him appear wide of the mark. He is 46; Alf Ramsey was 42 when he exchanged one rather unfashionable club, Ipswich, for England.

Bruce, like McClaren, is more obviously ambitious than Curbishley. However, what Bruce must weigh up is that Robson is 71 and Sir Alex Ferguson 62. Age means they will depart sooner rather than later, and Bruce as a former Manchester United player and a Geordie (which seems to count with the Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, more than being any good at coaching) is well placed to succeed either. Birmingham offer him money, stability and a platform for the limited success that would be enough to tip the balance. Should he stick or twist?

The answer is that there has probably never been a better time to manage England. Houllier thought they had twice as many good young players as France, Spain or Germany. They twice reached quarter- finals of major tournaments under Eriksson without playing especially well or adventurously. A tug on the tiller and someone might just inherit everything.

Sven's Successor? Contenders for England hot seat

Steve Mcclaren

For: Least painful succession. Coached with Eriksson in two major tournaments and close to David Beckham through his time at Manchester United. An acclaimed technician.

Against: Little, though an England manager should have taken his club higher than 10th in his own domestic championship. Odds (Ladbrokes): 6-4

Steve Bruce

For: Learned trade at Sir Alex Ferguson's feet and has transformed Birmingham into a significant force in English football. Openly wants the job.

Against: Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Wigan. The man has little track record of loyalty. What if the Germans come in for him?

Odds: 7-1

Alan Curbishley

For: You know the score: great manager, has altered Charlton beyond all recognition, very media savvy. He is 46 so hardly "too young" as some suggest.

Against: First name is Llewellyn which sounds suspiciously Welsh. Also why has no big club offered him a job?

Odds: 10-1

Ottmar Hitzfeld

For: Deeply religious and therefore unlikely to end up in bed with anything other than the good book. If he can handle Oliver Kahn's ego, he can do anything. Available.

Against: German, and a German who speaks very little English. Being a "close friend" of Ferguson is unlikely to improve his fluency.

Odds: 8-1

Trevor Brooking and Bobby Robson

For: Jolly good chaps, who can fill a gap with style. Brooking is a far, far harder man than his affable public image suggests.

Against: Isn't twice a (k)night exactly what Eriksson is accused of doing with David Davies's secretary? Not the most forward looking of appointments.

Odds: not quoted.

Ricky Tomlinson

For: Has taken England to the World Cup finals, albeit on film in Mike Bassett England Manager. High moral principles: has turned down five-figure sum to pose nude.

Against: Investigated by MI5 and been to prison. Support for Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party may not impress in cocktail receptions at No 10.

The key moments and what happens next

Tuesday 27 July

The Football Association calls an emergency meeting and launches an "urgent" inquiry into the alleged lies told on the subject of Sven Goran Eriksson's affair - and that of the FA chief executive, Mark Palios - with an FA secretary.

Wednesday 28 July

Tord Grip, England's assistant coach, describes the FA's investigation as "ridiculous", adding that "this has nothing to do with football".

Friday 30 July

The pre-season Amsterdam Tournament, which Eriksson is expected to attend in order to view players.

Arsenal v River Plate

Ajax v Panathinaikos

Sunday 1 August

The Amsterdam Tournament continues:

Arsenal v Ajax

River Plate v Panathinaikos

Thursday 5 August

The FA board is scheduled to meet to discuss the findings of the investigation.

Wednesday 18 August

England v Ukraine, an international friendly at St James' Park, Newcastle.

Saturday 4 September

Austria v England, a World Cup Group Six qualifying match.

Wednesday 8 September

Poland v England, a World Cup Group Six qualifying match.

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