Why should next England coach be English?
Fabio Capello has fired the starting gun on the race to be England's next coach by revealing he will step down when his contract expires after Euro 2012.
Capello is in a position of renewed strength after qualifying wins against Bulgaria and Switzerland started the recovery process after the trauma of England's World Cup failure - but he insists he will call it a day in two years and "live life as a pensioner".
And so the debate begins. Who should Capello's successor be and, apparently even more importantly, what nationality should the chosen one be?
The Football Association has been peddling the message that the next coach will be English. Of course this is preferable but it will also surely be a colossal error to make a nationalistic gesture at the expense of finding the best man.
If England's mission is to be successful after 44 years without a trophy, then the FA has a duty to scour the world for the finest candidate to succeed Capello until the day the rulebook is rewritten and their search is limited by the game's statutes.
If the best available candidate is English, then so be it. There would be widespread rejoicing if he was and it would be the perfect end to a debate that occupies the minds of many if an Englishman was appointed. But if the best option is not English, then the FA should chose him regardless.
There are English managers doing serviceable jobs in the Premier League but there are not many who will be able to place a record of actually winning trophies on the table at any FA interview.
When the FA settled on Capello as successor to Englishman Steve McClaren, they were persuaded by a stellar track record of winning club football's biggest prizes. It was of no account whether he was born in San Canzian d'Isonzo or St Albans.
Capello's CV boasts numerous successes in various countries. Photo: AFP
Imagine a scene, which takes a little bit of imagining admittedly, at the end of Euro 2012 whereby Jose Mourinho suddenly declares an interest in coaching England. Would the FA thank him for his interest before showing him the door because he is Portuguese?
Would the FA seriously ignore Arsene Wenger if he ever hinted at just the slightest interest in coaching England? Not a chance.
Former Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill would no doubt be the subject of some passionate lobbying, but the last time I looked he was definitely from Northern Ireland so a non-starter under any English-only guidelines.
Mourinho and Wenger are extreme examples, but you get the idea.
The usual English candidates are already jostling for position, inevitably led by Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce with Tottenham's Harry Redknapp in close attendance. Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is getting a mention, as is Sunderland manager Steve Bruce.
Allardyce has never been burdened by any modesty about his ability to manage England - remember his remark that if his name was "Allardici" he would be viewed as a great boss.
Bolton Wanderers was a monument to Allardyce's robust style of management and football, but it is a taste many struggle to acquire and he is unlikely to be the FA's first port of call. And, of course, he was sacked in short order, prematurely it should be said, at Newcastle, the biggest job he has ever had.
Redknapp's claims are stronger, based on a reputation for attractive football and a personality that gets big players to play for him. He has also enjoyed success in recent memory by winning the FA Cup at Portsmouth and completing an outstanding transformation of Tottenham by reaching the Champions League.
Based on recent records alone, if the FA wants an experienced Englishman to coach England, then Redknapp is their man. Time, in this case two years, will tell if they agree with that assessment.
Hodgson, cosmopolitan and experienced, would have been the prime candidate to succeed Capello had he left after the World Cup but he is now locked into a rebuilding programme at Liverpool, so this ship may well have sailed.
Redknapp champions the claims of Bruce, a highly-popular and respected figure, but he still has much to prove at Sunderland and his record at a succession of clubs is varied.
England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce will undoubtedly be considered as a matter of protocol but he has done nothing in management to suggest he would be a serious contender. He is continuing what he calls his "education" under Capello - even occasionally watching him in action at media conferences - but the idea of Pearce as England coach is unrealistic at this stage.
And then there is the other option the FA could take if we are heading off down this particularly narrow road. Namely, appointing an untried "name" candidate such as Alan Shearer or David Beckham.
This might satisfy the English patriotic, some might even say jingoistic, lobby but would represent a gamble of epic proportions. It is one the FA must avoid taking unless either man can suddenly present sound credentials in two years.
It may well be that an English coach or manager will do so much fine work in the next two years that he presents an irresistible case to be Capello's successor. If this is the case, then everyone with the national team's best interests at heart would be delighted, including myself.
But the clamour from those, including the FA, who insist England's next coach must be English should be placed in context and treated with caution.
No business of renown, presumably unless they were obliged by law to do so, would hamper the appointment of the most important person in the organisation on some invented premise of nationality. The FA must apply the same rules.
When it comes to coaching the national football team, English is preferable but it should never be a pre-requisite. Getting the best man for the job, wherever he was born, must be the FA's only goal.