O'Neill has the 'fervour and passion' to take charge of England, says Robson

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The Independent Football

The former England manager Sir Bobby Robson believes Martin O'Neill would make a high-calibre successor to Sven Goran Eriksson.

Brian Barwick, the chief executive of the Football Association, is holding talks with candidates to take over from Eriksson following this summer's World Cup and it is understood O'Neill is a front-runner.

Should he emerge as the FA's choice, O'Neill would get the backing of Robson, who steered England to the World Cup semi-finals in 1990.

Robson said: "I would like to see an English manager get the job because he will have the fervour and passion from within, but that also applies to Martin O'Neill.

"He is a good manager and in the equation," Robson added. "I'm not on the selection committee but we need the best we can get. Martin is a good, intelligent man. He did very well at Celtic -although that is not the Premiership."

Stuart Pearce, the Manchester City manager, is also in the running but Robson believes his time will come later. He said: "Stuart is gathering experience and might in time be the England manager, but maybe he should be the England manager after the next one. It is a job for an experienced man."

Alan Curbishley fits that category, having been in charge at Charlton for 15 years, although he has yet to win a trophy there or take a team into Europe. But Robson insisted: "You can't please everybody. I was 14 years at Ipswich before I got the England job so Alan Curbishley is in a very similar position to me."

Robson's 1990 side were beaten by Germany in a penalty shoot-out and he is convinced the current national team have the potential to go even further this time around. But he is also hoping the man he regards as central to the nation's hopes - Manchester United's Wayne Rooney - remains injury free.

Robson said: "One man doesn't make a team but one man makes a difference and Wayne Rooney is very, very important to us because we have no one to replace him. We haven't got another Wayne Rooney.

"He is absolutely crucial at the moment. We saw two years ago, in Euro 2004, when he was injured we weren't the same side.

"So we have to have our fingers crossed that Wayne keeps out of the way of the heavy wagons and stays on course. If he does that and everybody else plays well then we will have a chance.

"A lot of people have been saying this is the best chance we have had of winning the tournament for a number of years and I would say that is a fair response.

"We have a good team and some fine players. The coach has done very well to get us to the finals. Everyone knows he is leaving so he will want to leave on a high, the players will want to do their very best for him so it is all set up.

"We shouldn't be afraid of anyone. The dangers to England are Brazil, because they have some outstanding players and great forwards, and Argentina.

"If we can avoid those teams the chances are we will get to the final and play one of them then. So my message is - if we play to our potential we should do all right.

"It is like everything else in sport. If you maximise your potential you can get there. If you don't, you won't - it's as simple as that."

Previous build-up campaigns to World Cup finals have seen certain players emerge from the fringes to become key individuals, with the West Ham pair, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, cases in point from England's 1966 success.

Even Paul Gascoigne, the star of Robson's 1990 side, was not an automatic selection until the eve of the tournament in Italy.

However, Robson is adamant that no new faces would be handed tickets to Germany. He said: "No, I think Sven knows who he wants - and he has been manager for five years.

"He has been looking for players for the last two years since the European Championships so he he knows who he wants and he knows who he will get."

Meanwhile, Jack Charlton has urged the FA to stick with British candidates as they finalise their choice for the next England manager.

Charlton has not been convinced by the Eriksson era. He claims a foreign coach does not have the "commitment" to the English cause and opposes the recruitment of candidates like Dutchman Guus Hiddink or Luis Felipe Scolari, of Brazil.

Charlton said: "There's quite a few who would do a good job but we've got to make sure he's British. I don't think foreign managers have the commitment.

"I've always wanted an Englishman, I've always said that," he added. "Eriksson did a reasonable job but nothing exceptional that couldn't have been done by anybody else in England.

"The only real result he had that caused you to clap was when he beat Germany 5-1 and I watched that game and we had five shots and scored five goals. As far as the rest of the games are concerned I don't think he's beaten anyone remarkable."