Sam Allardyce will be interviewed for the England job this week and offered the chance to convince the Football Association he is better suited for the role than Jürgen Klinsmann, the other leading candidate in a process the people in charge hope to finalise within the next two weeks.
Allardyce, who is in Austria on a pre‑season tour with Sunderland, has been invited to meet with the FA after being identified as the best option of all the available Englishmen. Sunderland have been made aware and Allardyce has benefited from a ringing endorsement from Sir Alex Ferguson during the two-week consultation process when the FA canvassed opinion from within the sport. Ferguson, a close ally of Allardyce, has spoken to David Gill, the FA’s vice-chairman and former Manchester United chief executive who is helping to conduct the search.
The FA also intends to discuss the vacancy with Klinsmann and has been made aware that the USA team manager would be tempted by the job. However, Allardyce appeals to the FA for more reasons than simply his nationality when the organisation is looking for someone who will work within the current St George’s Park structure and, ideally, fit in with their own blueprint for English football. Klinsmann also ticks a lot of the boxes but he has a record of bringing his own staff and wanting to go his own way.
While Klinsmann’s independent streak may sound reasonable to many England followers after the ordeal of Euro 2016, the FA’s stubborn belief is that its system is not broken. England qualified with 10 straight wins and the FA is prioritising a strong-minded manager who will bring a greater degree of certainty to the squad in terms of playing style and selection.Allardyce would still represent a controversial selection bearing in mind his reputation for unattractive football – something he has always claimed was overblown – and the improvement at West Ham United since Slaven Bilic replaced him as manager. It is also understood there are people within the FA, outside of the three-man selection panel, who dislike the idea.
Allardyce, nonetheless, features prominently in the thoughts of the FA technical director, Dan Ashworth, the chief executive, Martin Glenn, and Gill when it comes to possessing the experience, track record and personality. His restoration work at Sunderland, saving them from relegation last season, counts in his favour and the 61-year-old is still keen to manage his country after being interviewed, unsuccessfully, for the role when he was manager of Bolton Wanderers in 2006. The job went to Steve McClaren and Allardyce has harboured a grievance ever since.
“I wanted to do a real knock-your-socks-off interview for the FA, so I put together a PowerPoint which looked at every single detail,” he wrote in his autobiography. “There was nothing missing. Nobody but nobody was going to beat it. But then Brian Barwick, the chief executive, told me there were no PowerPoint facilities at the interview venue, so I had to print off hard copies for the panel. So much for the progressive FA.”
The FA had initially hoped Gareth Southgate could take over on an interim basis, with Arsène Wenger potentially available when his contract at Arsenal expired in 2017. That plan was abandoned after Southgate informed the relevant people he did not want the role and Wenger has now acknowledged that the timing works against him.
Wenger said: “Could I manage England? Why not? I would never rule that out, but I am happy and focused in club football. I have one more year to go with Arsenal and I have been with them for a long time. I have always respected all my contracts and will continue to do that. What will I do after that? Honestly, I don’t know.”
As well as speaking to former players such as Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, the FA has also sought the advice of Harry Redknapp. Those discussions brought up support for Eddie Howe, Glenn Hoddle and Guus Hiddink, among others.
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