Stuart Pearce is expected to learn his fate as England Under-21 manager within the next few days, when he will almost certainly be told that his contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the month.
Although Pearce has spoken of his desire to continue, England's dismal performances at the European Championship in Israel, where they finished bottom of their group after losing all three matches, have increased the pressure on the Football Association to make a change.
The decision will be made by the Club England management board, with Greg Dyke, who will officially replace David Bernstein as FA chairman next month, involved in the discussions. Roy Hodgson, who watched the England Under-21 side lose against Norway and Israel, will also be consulted.
Pearce defended his record after Tuesday's humiliating 1-0 defeat against Israel, by pointing to the four successive finals England have qualified for under his watch and saying that there needed to be "some middle ground" when his position is considered. He has, however, won only three of 15 tournament matches in normal time and, privately, is understood to be resigned to the fact that he is unlikely to be given the chance to carry on.
Gareth Southgate, the former Middlesbrough manager, Peter Taylor, who has had two previous spells in charge of the Under-21s and will look after the Under-20s at the World Cup in Turkey this month, and Michael Appleton, who previously worked under Hodgson at West Bromwich Albion and remains close to the England coach, are the early frontrunners for the position. Paul Clement, who worked under Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, is another possible candidate.
In the wake of losing against Israel, Pearce refused to defend his players and said that they should take responsibility for their poor performances.
Danny Rose, the Tottenham Hotspur full-back, and Jack Butland, the Stoke City goalkeeper, agreed with the manager's assessment and described the team's results as "embarrassing".
"We haven't performed as well as we could have done, certainly not as good as we played in the qualifying stages," Rose said. "I know the players have been getting a bit of stick but I'd like to think we are all in it together. We were when we were winning, so we all should be when we are losing. It's very disappointing and very embarrassing."
Asked whether the players had let Pearce down, Rose replied: "Definitely. He has put his trust in a lot of players, especially me. We don't know if this is going to be his last game, so to not win and not get a point is a real let down for him. That's what we have done."
Although Rose said that expectation levels at home were unrealistic, he acknowledged the results in Israel were unacceptable. "I don't know why people automatically expect England to be contending for these competitions and winning them. We last won the World Cup in 1966 so I don't know why people put this expectation on England at all. But there is no excuse for not winning a game."
Butland was at a loss to explain why an England team that came into the tournament on the back of nine straight victories had looked so abject. "We are embarrassed, we haven't done ourselves justice. We are a lot better than this but we can't keep saying this. We haven't proved it and we can only wonder why," Butland said.
"There is no one else to blame [but the players]. We were on the pitch, I hope [Stuart Pearce] stays in the job. He works extremely hard and does everything necessary to make sure we are successful."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © stella gonzales