The heir-apparent to Sven Goran Eriksson began work yesterday talking of "opportunity" and "continuity". Should David Platt seize the opportunity his appointment as England Under-21 manager presents, and the Football Association maintains its belief in continuity, Platt should succeed Eriksson as England coach in 2006.
Platt, who won 62 England caps, admitted he was being "groomed" for the senior post but was not so "naïve" as to think it is a "foregone conclusion". He said: "I have to progress and develop. In football, things change from week to week. There is a great deal of work to do."
Platt – whose salary of around £300,000 a year makes him by far England's highest-paid Under-21 manager – was both the obvious choice and a left-field one. As a protégé of Howard Wilkinson, the FA's technical director, who gave Platt his first coaching experience, and Eriksson, his coach at Sampdoria, Platt was probably the only person the two most powerful football men at Soho Square could have agreed on. Being a slick public operator with a spotless reputation, and aged only 35, he will also have found favour with the third member of the FA's selection committee, the chief executive Adam Crozier.
Yet Platt's record as a coach – seven months assisting Wilkinson with the Under-18s, a brief, ill-fated spell at Sampdoria and two unremarkable seasons at Nottingham Forest – hardly suggests he is an England manager in waiting.
"Perhaps they see a potential," said Platt, who believes international football is very different from the club game. He added: "All I can do is seize an opportunity. I was surprised. I've always wanted to manage my country but this is not something I had foreseen happening this quickly."
The pace is unlikely to slow. Platt, who is unfamiliar with most current and potential Under-21 internationals, starts his tenure with a friendly against the Netherlands in four weeks' time. Like Eriksson, who watched Newcastle United in Belgium on Saturday, he will be attending as many games as possible.
Platt has yet to decide whether to bring in his own coaches, though he said "continuity is important". Nor has he clarified his role with Eriksson's senior team and Wilkinson's junior sides.
When Peter Taylor was appointed Under-21 coach by Glenn Hoddle, it was with a brief to act as a feeder team to the seniors, copying their 3-5-2 formation. After Wilkinson forced Taylor out the Under-21s were linked to the Under-15, 16 and 18 teams Wilkinson ran, adopting a 4-3-3 formation. The results were disappointing.
England are unlikely to reach the European Under-21 Championship and Platt appears likely to revert to the Taylor philosophy. "I am the reserve team manager," Platt said. "You can have ideas but the be-all and end-all is it comes from Sven. It is the final stepping stone to the full national side.
"In the past we have not taken the Under-21s as seriously as other countries but that is changing. They are important. I developed quite late and did not play many Under-21 games but I was glad I played the three I did. It gave me some idea of the step up to the full side, which is massive."
The same, as Eriksson's predecessor, Kevin Keegan, found, applies to management and Platt added: "I can't say whether the timing of this is right or wrong but if I had turned it down it might not have come again. It was an easy decision."
Though Platt believed Forest would have won promotion from the First Division this season he may well have been fired if they had not. That, however, was probably less of a factor than the chance to learn from Eriksson and occupy the prime position to succeed him. Eriksson, he added, was one of his mentors, along with other former England managers Terry Venables and Graham Taylor. He also played under Bobby Robson, Arsène Wenger and Giovanni Trapattoni.
It is an illustrious list of coaches but Platt is confident he will come to be numbered among them. Others will be sceptical but Platt has been confounding expectations ever since he was released by Manchester United as a teenager. His ability to play in Italy, or for Juventus, was questioned yet he did both. "If I didn't think I was capable of doing it I wouldn't be here," he added.Reuse content