England’s senior players will actively encourage the appointment of a foreign manager because they consider the list of English candidates, with Glenn Hoddle increasingly prominent in the Football Association’s thinking, to be underwhelming.
The search for the new manager will begin in earnest on Friday when the FA’s chief executive, Martin Glenn, the technical director, Dan Ashworth, and the vice-chairman, David Gill, meet at St George’s Park to work out their strategy now Gareth Southgate has ruled himself out of taking the job on an interim basis and it seems increasingly unlikely Arsène Wenger, though willing to discuss the vacancy, will be tempted.
Hoddle is being considered for the role the FA initially assumed Southgate would accept and Ashworth will meet Scott Parker for exploratory talks in the next few days as part of a wider search about involving former England players in the new regime.
The FA was taken by surprise by Southgate’s decision – England’s Under‑21 manager explained his position in a meeting with Ashworth on Thursday – but the disappointment may be offset by the disclosure that England’s players were largely unenthused by the possibility of the former Middlesbrough manager replacing Roy Hodgson.
Glenn has made it clear that he will consult England’s captain, Wayne Rooney, as well as experienced players such as Joe Hart, James Milner and Gary Cahill, and the preference in the dressing room would be for a non-Englishman if the alternative comes from a list featuring Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew, Steve Bruce and Eddie Howe.
That stance corroborates Southgate’s feelings that he would not have been easily accepted by the players, public and media as an upgrade on Hodgson. While the decision will rest with the three FA executives, it clearly counts against the English candidates, at a time when players’ opinions seem to matter more than ever, that there is no palpable support for any of them – and, in some cases, open opposition.
The overall view from the dressing room is that it would not concern the players in the slightest if a foreigner was appointed, as long as he speaks English.
The FA’s first consideration will be to explore the possibility of appointing an interim manager for up to a year, possibly, if Wenger indicates that he would be willing to take the job once his contract at Arsenal expires at the end of the 2016-17 season.
The chances of that happening, however, are diminishing. Wenger is willing to meet the FA but would not entertain the idea of breaking his contract. His view is that an Englishman should have the role and he dislikes the baggage that goes with the job. He also believes there are problems with the FA’s infrastructure and has misgivings about talking about a job a year in advance.
That makes it far more likely the FA will prefer a quicker appointment, with Laurent Blanc, Slaven Bilic and Jürgen Klinsmann among the other names under consideration to lead England into their World Cup qualifying campaign. England’s first qualifier will be away against Slovakia on 4 September but the FA is holding talks with the Czech Republic about arranging a friendly at Wembley in the week before that game, on 1 September.
Greg Dyke, the departing FA chairman, is understood to be supportive of Hoddle but his own time in office comes to an end in July and, as such, it is not known whether his voice carries significant weight any longer.
Hoddle does, however, have other admirers at the FA and though his appointment would clearly be controversial, there is a feeling behind the scenes that he no longer has to be discounted because of the comments about disabled people that led to his sacking from the job 17 years ago. That episode counts against Hoddle but, as it stands, the FA’s headhunters are counting him in their plans.
Hodgson, meanwhile, is planning some time out of the game but the 68-year-old does intend to return to management – China is one option – and his assistant Gary Neville will resume his punditry role with Sky.
The FA will launch its “definitive review” of what went wrong in Euro 2016 and why there is a pattern of players excelling for their clubs but being unable to maintain that form in England’s colours.
“We didn’t have a bad squad,” Dyke said. “We had quite a good squad. We went out there and played OK in the first three games then we were terrible in the fourth. I think everybody knows that and on behalf of the FA I would like to say sorry. The fans were brilliant out there, but on the day we froze. They [the players] froze and they were scared. You take good players, a good manager and suddenly on a day they froze. It’s terribly sad.”
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