Sunday 28 May 2017

England eye Wenger as Southgate prepares for caretaker job

The FA are determined to recruit the best possible candidate to replace Roy Hodgson. Picture credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The FA are determined to recruit the best possible candidate to replace Roy Hodgson. Picture credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Mark Ogden

Gareth Southgate has been lined up to take charge of England on an interim basis, with the Football Association prepared to wait up to a year to secure the permanent successor to Roy Hodgson - potentially opening the door for Arsene Wenger.

With Hodgson resigning his post within minutes of the humiliating Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland on Monday evening, FA chief executive Martin Glenn has confirmed that he will form part of a three-man panel to identify the man charged with taking England to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The panel are set to meet later this week to outline the criteria for the next manager, but the search will not be restricted to a domestic candidate, with Glenn admitting that there is no 'perfect' English candidate currently available.

However, with the FA determined to recruit the best possible candidate to replace Hodgson (right), the organisation will not seek to force through an appointment ahead of the start of England's World Cup qualifying campaign in September.

And Glenn has previously talked up Wenger's "understanding" of English football.

Glenn admits that, while a swift appointment would be the ideal scenario, a caretaker-manager cannot be ruled out.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is one of the FA's leading candidates to take the England job. Photo: Scott Heavey/PA
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is one of the FA's leading candidates to take the England job. Photo: Scott Heavey/PA

"We'd like to get one (manager) for the first World Cup qualifier, but if we don't, we have an interim plan in mind," Glenn said. "We are not talking about names today (for the interim post), but it would be a pretty obvious one to pick.

"We just don't know yet who the runners and riders would be for the job.

"We clearly need an inspirational manager who can harness all of the resources that the English game, the big resources, has got to make us more resilient in tournaments."

“That I think is the brief, but we want to work that through – but it is an inspirational manager and management team to get the best out of a squad which has got high potential,” added Glenn.

Although insisting there will be no rush to make an appointment, Glenn accepts that it could damage England’s World Cup qualifying hopes if the selection process takes too long.

“If it did (affect qualification), it would be a wrong decision,” Glenn said. “It’s a hypothetical. If you said you were going to wait a year, a lot of things can happen in a year which may undo your plans.

“So what I am saying is that it is a hypothetical, I wouldn’t rule it out but it would be less likely.”

Prising Wenger from Arsenal is likely to prove difficult, with the Frenchman previously rejecting advances from the Football Association.

Wenger’s contract at the Emirates is due to expire at the end of next season, however, and Glenn has previously admitted his belief that he would be a strong candidate for the England job.

“Arsène Wenger has been here since 1996,” Glenn said. “Has Arsène got a fantastic understanding of the Premier League, of English players, of the English media, of the expectations of England?

“Absolutely. So would you rule him out? Probably not, but he might not want it.”

Jurgen Klinsmann, the United States manager who guided Germany to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup, is another contender and, while contracted to the US Soccer Federation until 2018, it is understood that the Americans would not stand in his way if an approach was to be made by the FA.

But despite the huge investment in developing English coaches at St George’s Park, Glenn insists there is no sense in limiting the search to an English manager.

“If there were the perfect English manager, you would pick them,” Glenn said. “I am not sure there is, but we would take a good look and make a rational assessment.

“We’ll be looking for the best person for the job, so I am not ruling out a non-English coach.

“I’m not going to talk about names, it’s not even 24 hours since we’ve gone out of the tournament, but we will are looking for the best person, not necessarily the best Englishman.

“I won’t be drawn (on names), but track records are very important. It’s not always a factor that one can translate to the other, but clearly track record is an important part of any process.”

Southgate’s prospects of becoming England manager on a full-time basis should not be discounted, with the former Middlesbrough manager, who guided the U-21s to success at this summer’s Toulon Tournament, highly regarded by Dan Ashworth, who will lead the search for Hodgson’s replacement.

Glenn, who twice insisted he was “not a football expert”, said that a decision on the appointment will be made once Ashworth has canvassed leading figures in the game, including managers, players and former players such as Alan Shearer.

“We are going to canvas opinion across the game,” Glenn said. “It’s an important appointment and we’ve obviously got to get it right. We kick the process off with the three (of us).

“(FA Technical director) Dan Ashworth will lead the search process, reporting back to me and (vice-Chairman) David Gill in terms of checking out what his criteria are.

“Dan is primed to go and do that, but the process will involve a wider consultation within the game.”

Meanwhile, England captain Wayne Rooney has insisted that Hodgson always had the players’ support, labelling reports they had lost faith in the outgoing manager “completely untrue”.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that senior players had doubted the manager’s ability to lead the team to the latter stages before the Iceland game.

But a statement, Rooney said: “In response to recent media reports, I’d like to say that is completely untrue.

“On behalf of the players, we completely supported the England manager but we understand his reasons for stepping down.

“We had absolute faith in the build-up and throughout the tournament.”

Independent News Service

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