Michael Owen yesterday urged the Football Association to make a swift decision on Sven Goran Eriksson's successor and the governing body will have to move quickly if it is to make an approach for Guus Hiddink as PSV Eindhoven intend to offer their coach a new long-term deal before the end of the season.
Owen became the first of the senior players to discuss Eriksson's impending departure and said that the race for the succession should not detract from the World Cup preparations. Hiddink is among those who certain FA officials believe should, at the very least, be approached to gauge his suitability for the job and the former Celtic manager Martin O'Neill has also not been ruled out of the running and could be available next season.
Owen admitted that some of the players might find it "annoying" if the build-up to the tournament was plagued by intense discussion of the new manager but promised that they would not be distracted from their task in Germany. Owen said: "We've not got to be affected as players because we have got a World Cup to participate in and 60-odd million people in our country that we have got to go and represent," he said.
"There are many, many reasons to concentrate solely on the World Cup and that tournament rather than what is going to happen afterwards. It's 10 times more important what happens during the tournament.
"I think that everyone would want the manager to be the best man for the job and if he is English then that will be double satisfaction because that would be great. We are a big football nation so we have got some top managers. If we have to go down the foreign route then as long as it's the best man I'm sure every England fan would be happy."
Owen said that the performance of England under previous managers who knew they were moving on before major tournaments Bobby Robson at the 1990 World Cup and Terry Venables at Euro 1996 suggested that the team would not suffer. "It should not affect us, but it will affect us less if everyone stops talking about it and gets behind the team," he said. "We don't want to use it as an excuse, so we'd prefer to concentrate on the football side."
Hiddink's agent, Cees van Nieuwenhuizen, said yesterday that his client would be interested in the job. The 59-year-old has just one year remaining on his contract with PSV and has already discussed with the club's president, Rob Westerhof, the possibility of extending the deal and changing the nature of his role at the club which is likely to be the last contract of his career. When Hiddink took over at PSV in 2002 he changed the typically Dutch set-up technical director and coach to a more centralised system with him as a traditional English-style manager.
That role is now up for discussion with Hiddink unwilling to spend as much time on the training ground. PSV are willing to secure the future of the most celebrated manager in their history and the FA would have to pay compensation to the club should it wish Hiddink to break the terms of his contract.
He has a clause in his deal which allows him to speak to what has been described as "five top European clubs" should an offer be made but there is nothing to say that extends to national federations. The man who took the Netherlands to the World Cup in 1998, South Korea in 2002 and will lead Australia this summer will not come cheap.
Van Nieuwenhuizen said that his client would "definitely" be interested in the job and would not baulk at the size of the task.
O'Neill, 53, left football management at the end of last season to care for his wife Geraldine, who has been receiving treatment for cancer, and his future plans will be dictated by her situation. It would be too early for him to predict whether he would be available to take charge of England for their first friendly after the World Cup finals on 16 August, but the FA will be told that it should not rule him out of its thinking.
While Eriksson will be in Switzerland for tomorrow's draw, the task of deciding when England play their fixtures will pass to Sir Trevor Brooking, who will help to draw up the schedule of qualifying fixtures, due to begin on 2 September.Reuse content