Fabio Capello’s resignation may send the England soccer team into a major championship without a permanent manager for the first time in history.
Capello quit two days ago after a disagreement with the Football Association over its decision to remove Chelsea defender John Terry as captain of the national team. The F.A. acted after Terry’s trial for allegedly racially abusing an opponent was delayed until after the European Championship in July. Terry denies the charge.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, cleared this week of tax evasion, is the favorite for the post with bookmakers and some players. F.A. Chairman David Bernstein said all options remain, including naming a manager just for the tournament. Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce will lead the team in its next match, an exhibition against the Netherlands on Feb. 29.
Bernstein also repeated his preference for an Englishman to hold one of the highest-profile posts in soccer but said there remained a possibility of another foreign appointee as long as they had a good knowledge of English soccer.
“We are not prepared to restrict ourselves at this stage,” Bernstein told reporters yesterday at Wembley Stadium. “He might be English, he might be British, he might not be. He might be for the Euros only, he might be long term. We need to look at all the options.”
Bernstein’s suggestion means there’s a possibility of Redknapp or another coach taking charge of the team for the tournament before returning to their current jobs. Tottenham is on course for its highest finish in the Premier League -- it’s currently third, 7 points behind leader Manchester City -- and a return to the Champions League.
Redknapp said that while it was “flattering” to be mentioned for the post, it would be hard for anyone to juggle both a club and national job. He added that he owed it to Tottenham to keep “completely focused” on his current position.
“It’s hard enough managing a league club, let alone managing your country,” Redknapp told reporters at a news conference ahead of tomorrow’s game with Newcastle. “They’re two very difficult jobs and your focus would have to be on one job.”
Officials will meet today to decide the criteria required for finding a new coach. Scotland was the last British team to have a temporary manager at a tournament when Alex Ferguson took charge for the 1986 World Cup.
Capello said he opposed the decision to remove Terry because it remained unproven that he racially abused QPR’s Anton Ferdinand, whose brother Rio plays alongside Terry in England’s central defense. Bernstein said he understood the coach’s frustration but the F.A.’s 14-member board was unanimous the issue “was not appropriate and not in the best interests of England” for Terry to continue in the role.
Bernstein said the F.A. expected Terry’s trial to begin in April or May and was surprised by the decision to push it back to July, even though lawyers for the player and Chelsea lobbied for the delay. It remains unclear whether the F.A. spoke to Chelsea about its plans.
Capello was the second foreigner appointed England manager after Sweden’s Sven Goran Eriksson in 2001. U.K. newspapers have estimated the pair earned 50 million pounds ($79.2 million) between them over 10 years.
`Large Amounts of Money'
“Clearly there have been large amounts of money involved,” Bernstein said. “Going forward, we will have to assess things very carefully. We should pay a sensible amount of money for the right person but how that balances out we will have to see.” He added that didn’t mean they were going to hire someone “on the cheap.”
England hasn’t won a tournament since its only World Cup triumph on home soil in 1966. Its record in European Championships, excluding the one staged in England in 1996, stands at just four wins in six tournaments.
Trevor Brooking, a former national team player now on the four-member panel that nominates the new coach, said an appointment shouldn’t be seen as a “panacea.”
“Let’s not get this expectancy that whoever comes in is going to suddenly start delivering us championships,” Brooking said. “I don’t want to scare off anyone coming into this job because you are expecting them to come back with a championship or get to a final and I’m saying it would be great, but let’s not put this person’s head on the block.”
Some bookmakers have stopped taking bets Redknapp replacing Capello, and fans and players like Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand expressed support for him.
“We of course understand the feeling of the nation and supporters, fans of England are very important when it comes to choosing the right person for the job,” Bernstein said. “But we have to sit down and look long-term and give ourselves as many options as are available.”