Scolari back in the race to take England reins

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The Independent Football

The Football Association's five-man committee charged with finding the new England manager met yesterday for a crucial meeting but are no closer to a resolution. The Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari now appears to be back in the running, along with the favourite Steve McClaren.

The Middlesbrough manager remains the front-runner to land the job despite not having an advocate on the committee who has backed his case from the start. However, with elements of the committee unwilling to give up on their first choices it appears that Scolari, who has been championed by Arsenal's vice-chairman David Dein, is being seriously considered as an alternative.

The committee have talked around so many possibilities without arriving at a decision that Scolari, who appeared to rule himself out on Sunday, is now a possibility. McClaren has long been the candidate of compromise but a lack of enthusiasm to push ahead with his appointment has caused the committee to go back over earlier discussions and see if they can overcome objections to the man who is currently the coach of Portugal.

The committee members, led by the FA chief executive Brian Barwick, know they face ridicule should they be unable to decide upon a manager within the next few days. However, they also have to make sure they will be able to meet the chosen man's salary demands - as well as any compensation to his current employers - before they can make an announcement.

The governing body are sensitive that should they not land their first choice, having announced the man they want, they risk burdening the replacement with being known as the second-choice England manager. While Scolari has expressed dissatisfaction with the selection process he would be available after the World Cup, when his contract with Portugal ends.

Barwick left the meeting yesterday to attend the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final at the City of Manchester stadium between Manchester City and Liverpool. The FA's chief executive has long backed Martin O'Neill but it seems he has been unable to persuade the rest of his committee members that the Northern Irishman is the best candidate for the job.

If McClaren was appointed there is a strong suggestion that he would be asked to take Peter Taylor, the current England Under-21 coach and former caretaker manager of the senior team, as his No 2. With McClaren and Taylor, currently the manager of Hull City, in charge, the FA believe they would have the kind of coaches capable of updating the coaching structure around the junior England teams from Under-15s upwards.

However, there is a fear that McClaren would not fill the nation with enthusiasm, especially if England failed at the World Cup this summer and the new regime was associated with Eriksson's. The Swede's current No 2 has little support among the press - a Radio Five poll of the nine national newspapers found that six backed O'Neill, two Sam Allardyce and one Alan Curbishley.

While McClaren is the favourite, a shock cannot be ruled out. The committee members Dave Richards, the Premier League chairman, and Noel White, an FA councillor, are the most resistant to another foreigner but will realise the need for a consensus. Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, originally backed Curbishley.

Allardyce spoke yesterday of Bolton playing in the InterToto Cup this summer in order to qualify for the Uefa Cup, should he not get the England job. Curbishley confirmed that he had a second interview with the FA and that Charlton would offer him a new contract if he did not get the job.

Curbishley, manager of Charlton since 1991, said: "I have a big decision to make this summer. If I do decide to extend my contract here it would take me into my 50s and I'd have been here 19 or 20 years."

l Tele Santana one of Brazil's best-known coaches, died yesterday in a Belo Horizonte hospital where he had been ill since March. Santana, who led Brazil at two World Cups, including the 1982 side that boasted such outstanding talents as Junior, Socrates, Eder, Zico, Toninho Cerezo and Falcao.