For the second time in less than three months, England find themselves without a national team manager.
Sam Allardyce’s ignominious resignation earlier this week has left the FA scrambling around to find a new man to lead the side into the next World Cup in 2018.
In the meantime, under-21 manager Gareth Southgate has been entrusted with the responsibility of leading England in their next three World Cup qualifiers, as well as the friendly against Spain in November.
While that will take them up to the end of this calendar year, the governing body still needs to find a more long-term solution, and a number of candidates have already emerged.
Sky Sports yesterday reported that England were keen to speak to former Schalke manager Ralf Rangnick about the role, having already interviewed him before Allardyce was ultimately given the job.
However, the Mirror are this morning reporting that the FA have narrowed their field of vision to three – with Southgate, Eddie Howe and Arsène Wenger the last men standing in their search for Allardyce’s successor.
The selection panel have apparently come to the decision having weighed up the credentials of each prospective candidate – the likes of Glenn Hoddle and Steve Bruce have also been linked – and decided that, for varying reasons, the three man they have picked out would be the best options to lead the country.
Southgate, despite not wanting the job initially, has altered his stance significantly according to reports yesterday. Indeed, he is seemingly now quite keen to be given the job on a permanent basis.
Ideally, the FA would like to keep him on too, especially if he performs to a high standard in what has essentially now become his audition – it would suit everyone if the transition from Allardyce to the new manager is as seamless as possible and right now Southgate is the best option for making that happen.
However, they are also looking at alternatives – and neither of their other two options have been distancing themselves from the job with any real conviction.
Wenger’s comments regarding the position have been quite interesting. Although he is keen to stress that he is focused on the task at hand at Arsenal this year, his longer-term future at the Emirates is somewhat less clear. His references on being focused on now until the end of the current season could just be throwaway lines, but likewise there could be more to them.
As it stands, Wenger’s contract is due to expire next summer, and one suspects the FA would be prepared to wait for him if that presented itself as an option.
Howe is regarded as one of the brightest young managers in the game, but would represent a massive risk due to his age and relative lack of experience. His appointment would be the biggest gamble of the three, but on the other hand it could be the fresh impetus of young blood that the team has needed.
Howe himself has reaffirmed his commitment to Bournemouth, but has admitted that England would be the “ultimate job.” There is a marked difference between hypothetically turning down a job and doing likewise when it is put in front of him.
There is unlikely to be any official movement from the selection committee in the near future, as Southgate has the job for the immediate future, there should be an official appointment made, or, at least, a deal in place for next summer, towards the end of this year or in early 2017.