The first challenge on day one of any new regime is to avoid making the kind of mistake which subsequently hovers like a grey cloud, waiting to burst into a downpour, at the first sign of turbulence.
Martin Glenn, the Football Association’s chief executive, had plenty of pitfalls in his path as he attempted to outline the strategy for identifying and appointing Roy Hodgson’s successor as England manager, but he avoided stepping into the biggest of them by insisting that the field would not be restricted to Englishmen.
The former Walkers Crisps executive strayed into dangerous territory by insisting not once, but twice, that he was ‘not a football expert,’ but the soundbites tend to evaporate once the big ticket material is delivered and by pledging to recruit ‘the best man for the job, not the best Englishman,’ Glenn ensured that the FA would not make the mistake of adopting the ‘Little Englander’ mentality which had threatened to drag the national team even further down a dark cul-de-sac.
English football has opened its doors to the world by making the Premier League the most cosmopolitan and exciting league on the planet, and while the influx of foreign players and coaches has stunted the development of their English counterparts, the reality is that the best of the best are currently anything but English.
Alan Pardew, Eddie Howe, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce all have valid claims to be considered as Hodgson’s successor as a result of their club achievements, but none of them has any international experience or a major honour on their CVs as a manager.
Gareth Southgate, who is set to take charge of England on an interim basis until a permanent appointment is made, treaded water at Middlesbrough and suffered relegation before rehabilitating his reputation working with England’s Under-21s.
But do any of the above genuinely possess the credentials to manage England at a major tournament and outsmart the likes of Joachim Low, Didier Deschamps or Vicente del Bosque?
Some may argue that Chris Coleman, having managed without great success at Fulham and Coventry City, has taken Wales to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals with a track record no better than the Englishmen currently vying for the top job in this country.
But Coleman represented his country many times as a player and also broadened his coaching mind with spells in Spain and Greece.
English coaches only work in England and, increasingly so, too far down the ladder to even merit consideration for the England job. No Englishman has ever managed a team to the Premier League title – Howard Wilkinson at Leeds United in 1992 was the last English manager to win the league championship – and the influx of foreign coaches could not be cited as an excuse for their lack of opportunities while Sir Alex Ferguson was collecting the first of his 13 Premier League crowns in the mid-1990s.
English managers and coaches have become second-class citizens in the field in which they operate, so the FA simply has to look elsewhere. Arsene Wenger would be the FA’s ideal appointment – they would not baulk at Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti or Pep Guardiola, but the club game is where it’s at for that trio – while Jurgen Klinsmann’s work with Germany and the United States could prompt interest in his services.
English or otherwise, there is no obvious contender to replace Hodgson, which is why the FA is right to undergo a period of due diligence, assess a global field of candidates, and take its time before finding the best man for the job.
The alternative? If Southgate does well as interim manager, would he be anything more than football’s version of Stuart Lancaster – a man who ticks the boxes of FA mandarins, but lacks the ‘been there, done it’ track record of a seasoned, winning coach?
In both cricket and rugby union, the departure of an English coach after a disastrous major tournament in the past year has preceded the appointment of a gnarled, worldly-wise coach from overseas who has overseen an immediate upturn in fortunes.
The FA simply needs to find its own version of Trevor Bayliss or Eddie Jones and, sadly, they will not find him by restricting their search to those born within the shores of the British Isles.
Culled from www.independent.co.uk