Keegan ahead in the name game

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables was a 25-1 outsider for the post of England manager at the time of Graham Taylor's resignation just over two years ago. Steve Coppell, Roy Evans and Ron Atkinson were bracketed together at those odds last night, but Kevin Keegan remains both the bookies' and the people's choice, writes Phil Shaw.

Keegan, the 45-year-old, 4-5 favourite, captained his country under both Don Revie and Ron Greenwood. He is a comparative newcomer to management, having come out of retirement in Spain in 1992 to join Sir John Hall's revolution at Newcastle.

Whether "God on the Tyne" should forsake his present job, which he relishes, for the no-win situation that has become the lot of the England coach must be extremely doubtful, especially with the Champions' League beckoning.

Bryan Robson, the 6-4 second favourite, celebrates his 39th birthday today. Another former England captain and still playing for Middlesbrough, he has been a manager only since last season. Robson has the advantage of having worked alongside Venables as coach, though he too might be reluctant to turn his back on a chairman, Steve Gibson, who has furnished him with lavish funding.

Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds United manager, could be a better bet at 8-1, if only because he appears to have gone as far as he can after delivering the championship to Elland Road in 1992. Now 52, this self-styled "failed player" was asked by the FA last year whether he was interested in becoming its technical director, but ruled himself out.

Gerry Francis, one of Venables' successors at Tottenham Hotspur, is on record as saying he is not interested in the job. That has not prevented his being installed as 10-1 fourth favourite.

Two more former England midfielders, Chelsea's Glenn Hoddle (14-1) and QPR's Ray Wilkins (20-1), stand either side of the more experienced Joe Royle, of Everton, a 16-1 shot.

Down at 33-1 is a man with a proven record in international management, though at 60, and with question marks against his appreciation of tactics and coaching, Jack Charlton is unlikely to be asked to step out of the Irish frying pan into the English fire - even if he wanted to.

Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, said last night that an appointment would be made "the sooner the better".

One of the problems is likely to be that of persuading the man of their choice that it is worth the pressure of club v country and media vilification. After Taylor's demise, Hoddle remarked that managing England had become a "horrible job" with the potential to destroy family life. "Perhaps we should be looking for a guy who's divorced with no kids," he said.

Wilkinson, meanwhile, considered the England manager "has got to fight the system and the press from day one" - none of which augurs well for Kelly and Co.