GIVEN THE glaring absence of any obvious successor to Glenn Hoddle from among the ranks of English managers, attention will, inevitably, turn abroad. The success of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Gianluca Vialli at Chelsea has taught the English to be much less sceptical of foreign coaches, but appointing one as national coach would set a precedent not only for England but for any major footballing power around the world.
None of the game's leading countries has ever put a foreigner in charge of its national team. While Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands and have all had foreigners in charge at their clubs and quite often their leading clubs, the national federations of those countries have never been able to bring themselves to appoint an outsider. For a country as proudly nationalistic as England to do so would be unthinkable. It would also be an indictment of coaching in this country.
Bobby Robson, the former England manager, for one does not think it will nor should happen. "I just don't think you would get the same commitment from a stranger, from a Chilean or someone, coming into England as manager as opposed to a bone fide Englishman who's served his country at various levels of the game," said Robson. "I don't think you'd get the same attachment, the same love and devotion and passion and diehard spirit that you've got for your own country. You're going to war, aren't you? You fight for your country, you fight to the end. I can't quite see a foreigner quite doing that.
"I definitely think we've got men to do the job, the question is whether you can persuade them. I'm not saying Glenn got the job because other people turned it down, but there were other people in the frame when Glenn finally took the job who didn't fancy it because, well, they didn't need a hole in their head."
The appointment of foreign national team coaches has hitherto been exclusively the preserve of emerging nations, who lack sufficient expertise in their own country, and as such their success has only been relative. It was significant that at Euro 96 only one of the 16 finalists - Switzerland with the Portuguese Artur Jorge - was coached by a foreigner.
Ironically, two of the most successful "foreigners" have been Englishmen - Jack Charlton with the Republic of Ireland and Roy Hodgson with Switzerland - but no major championship has been won by a country coached by a foreigner.
Wales (Mike Smith and Bobby Gould) and Northern Ireland (Lawrie McMenemy) have gone down the same route but have yet to venture beyond the British Isles for a coach.
If the Football Association were to look "abroad" they would almost certainly look further afield. There is a small precedent in as much as it was the FA's intention to appoint the Frenchman Gerard Houllier as technical director, the post now held by Howard Wilkinson, but the now Liverpool manager was unable to free himself before France 98.
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