Even before Fabio Capello walked out of Wembley for the last time last month, the Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, had a phobia about discussing the issue of the Italian's successor. Bernstein was so determined not to answer any question on the subject that might in any way be construed as meaningful, that he was one step from the finger-in-ears-la-la-la avoidance tactic.
In some respects you could see why. He was desperate not to offend Capello by lining up his replacement for when the Italian's contract expired after the 2012 European Championship. In addition, Bernstein was clearly anxious not to upset the clubs of the managers he was interested in appointing.
His problem was compounded by the fact that the man whom most thought ideal for the job was Harry Redknapp and, until 8 February, the day that Capello walked out, Redknapp was facing two counts of cheating the public revenue and a possible jail sentence. To add to the complications, the case was the subject of reporting restrictions.
That was why Bernstein rolled up into a ball – figuratively speaking – every time the question of the succession came up. But the FA chairman does not need to any more. Capello has gone. Redknapp has been acquitted. Bernstein can do what he likes.
The FA general secretary, Alex Horne, said on Friday that the governing body would not approach any candidate until the "back end of the season". While it is not entirely clear what span of time that phrase refers to, it is understood that the FA will not leave the appointment until after 13 May, the last game of the season, as has been suggested in some quarters.
Which means the FA will have no choice but to start approaching clubs for permission to speak to their managers during the season and it should have no qualms about doing so. The FA cannot afford to tiptoe around now, especially with Roman Abramovich also in the market for a new manager. Redknapp has just become the hottest property in town.
Appointing the new England manager is too important a process to leave until the last minute. If Bernstein approaches Tottenham in the next few weeks for permission to speak to Redknapp, and upsets the club along the way, then, frankly, too bad. Before yesterday it was just falling out with Spurs he will have been concerned about. Now he has a possible interest from Chelsea to worry about too.
Bernstein is the chairman of the FA and he is charged with making the most crucial appointment in the English game – as far as those of us who value international football are concerned. He will have to step on some toes.
Daniel Levy has been a shrewd chairman of Tottenham and, with a few bumps along the way, he has built the club to a point where it can challenge the Premier League elite. It may well hurt him to lose his manager – he will doubtless be fully compensated – but that is football. It is a tough old gig sometimes.
It should be pointed out that Levy appointed Redknapp the day after he sacked Juande Ramos in October 2008, which would suggest that he laid the groundwork long before he handed the Spanish manager the box to clear his desk. A year earlier there was a well-publicised visit to Seville to see Ramos by a Spurs delegation while Martin Jol was still in charge.
Should Spurs be approached by the FA over Redknapp during the next few days then Levy would start casting around for his replacement. The Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers is thought to be admired at Spurs. What was the FA's problem, becomes Spurs' problem, becomes Swansea's problem. It was ever thus.
The FA chairman, unlike just about every other club chairman or chief executive in the country, cannot "tap up" a manager. He cannot do the nudge and a wink through a friend of a friend. He cannot send an associate to meet Redknapp in a Little Chef, famously the venue at which he tendered his resignation to Portsmouth in 2004.
The simple reason is that, as well as running the England team, the FA also administers the rules of the game. Its credibility would be in pieces if it broke its own rules on making an "illegal approach" and was found out. Bernstein has to go through the front door.
Bernstein has had a sure-footed start to his chairmanship of the FA. It was the right decision to take the captaincy away from John Terry. It was the right decision not to beg Capello to stay. Just as it was the right decision to stand up to Sepp Blatter in June and insist that the Fifa presidential elections be delayed. On both occasions, Bernstein demonstrated himself to be a man capable of doing the right thing, however difficult.
If it means that the FA has to go to Tottenham over Redknapp during the season's most crucial time and that things are a bit awkward between Bernstein and Levy, especially in the event of Spurs reaching the FA Cup final, then so be it.
This is England at a European Championship and, come 11 June, the whole English football nation will be watching. Not many of us think that England can win it. Not in a 16-team tournament that features 13 of the world's top 20-ranked international teams. But at the very least England should give themselves the best possible chance and for that they need a manager, whoever gets upset along the way.
Villas-Boas was the right man at the wrong time
Andre Villas-Boas might have been the right man at the wrong time. He might have handled some of the more fragile egos in his Chelsea squad a little indelicately. The job might have been too damn big for a manager who was two years younger than Hilario. But at least he had the courage to address the problem of finding an alternative to Chelsea's old guard.
His long-term successor this summer will have much the same problems when it comes to replacing the mainstays of the Jose Mourinho side. If Oriol Romeu, Juan Mata, Raul Meireles and Gary Cahill were all the significant changes that Villas-Boas was allowed to make, then it is obvious that there will have to be more investment, however painful that may be. The problem with the old guard is that, however much they deteriorate, the replacements have not looked up to it either.
Once again Fifa leaves us all in a world of pain
First of all Fifa gave the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and then discovered it had to reorganise the global football calendar to accommodate it. Now the Brazilian Sports Minister, Aldo Rebelo, says his country no longer recognises the authority of Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, because of his criticisms of Brazil's woeful preparations for the event.
Without wishing to jump to too many conclusions, one would have to say that these two World Cup finals are looking like potential disasters. Of course, Qatar, with its desert heat, is in a league of its own. Brazil, which should be a glorious stage for a World Cup, is falling foul of all the old problems of staging a World Cup finals outside the First World nations. By comparison, Russia in 2018 looks like the best of the lot, which does not say much about Fifa as it struggles on.Reuse content