Netherlands defeat shows FA must act quickly
At Wembley Stuart Pearce freely admits part of his role as England's caretaker manager is to buy the Football Association time to puts its plans in place for appointing Fabio Capello's successor. Events at Wembley and beyond on Wednesday should have crystallised the FA's thoughts and conspired to convince the quartet charged with selecting England's next leader that Pearce has already bought them enough time. As a patchwork team lost 3-2 to a vastly superior Netherlands side, France - the team England will meet in their opening Euro 2012 fixture in Donetsk's Donbass Arena on 11 June and who shared their status as the sick men of European football after the last World Cup - were beating Germany in Bremen. The same Germany, of course, who embarrassed England in Bloemfontein in that sad summer of 2010.
Stuart Pearce freely admits part of his role as England's caretaker manager is to buy the Football Association time to puts its plans in place for appointing Fabio Capello's successor.
Events at Wembley and beyond on Wednesday should have crystallised the FA's thoughts and conspired to convince the quartet charged with selecting England's next leader that Pearce has already bought them enough time.
As a patchwork team lost 3-2 to a vastly superior Netherlands side, France - the team England will meet in their opening Euro 2012 fixture in Donetsk's Donbass Arena on 11 June and who shared their status as the sick men of European football after the last World Cup - were beating Germany in Bremen.
The same Germany, of course, who embarrassed England in Bloemfontein in that sad summer of 2010.
Stuart Pearce's first game in charge of England was a 3-2 defeat to Netherlands. Photo: Getty
And back at Wembley Pearce concluded his post-match briefing by announcing that, while he is undaunted by the prospect of coaching England at Euro 2012, he is too inexperienced for the full-time job.
It was hardly the most convincing personal reference. If Pearce believes he is not up to the full-time job, how can the FA possibly risk appointing him to take charge of a major tournament?
After watching England look inferior to the Netherlands despite the narrow margin of defeat, and hearing Pearce publicly accept his limitations, all signs point to the need for the process to find a permanent solution to be accelerated.
Sir Trevor Brooking's insistence that a new manager could be "parachuted in" a few days before Euro 2012 is correct in theory but unconvincing in practice after studying the evidence on show at Wembley. There is much work to be done, perhaps too much for a manager armed only with a parachute.
England's late rally, when Gary Cahill and Ashley Young levelled up goals from Arjen Robben and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, would not have disguised the gulf in class between the teams. As it was, Robben's injury-time winner deprived England of even that scant consolation.
There has to be some sympathy for the FA's position - especially if Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is confirmed as the chosen one. If so, the national association almost has to embark on a diplomatic exercise.
FA chairman David Bernstein, director of football development Brooking, general secretary Alex Horne and Club England MD Adrian Bevington have to handle the sensitivities that potentially come with this territory as Tottenham chase the FA Cup and a place in the Premier League's top four.
Indeed the flipside of this is that some at Spurs may feel, especially in the harsh light of their 5-2 thrashing at Arsenal on Sunday, that they are already feeling the impact even without getting the call from FA headquarters.
The FA must take on the balancing act of getting their man while, if they settle on Redknapp, not leaving itself open to accusations of unsettling the season at White Hart Lane. Not an easy task but one that the current state of play suggests should take on increasing urgency.
England's logistical plans may be in place for the new man but there is uncertainty around football matters, with the team in a state of flux and its finest player, Wayne Rooney, suspended for the first two games of Euro 2012.
Pearce's honesty about his position was admirable - "I'm not auditioning for anything" - and may even have acted as an extra alert to the FA that the countdown to Poland and Ukraine gathers momentum as they ponder the task of appointing their most important employee.
Even if they cannot put a man in place until the season finishes, there was a growing sense around Wembley on Wednesday that the time is coming to make the first firm moves towards making an appointment, if not immediately then at least having their man under contract to take charge once the final ball of the domestic campaign has been kicked.
The FA cannot be accused of dragging its feet as work has undoubtedly been done behind closed doors. Knee-jerking makes no sense but the clock is ticking and Bernstein said all the most important FA diaries were cleared on 10 February to prioritise the finding of a replacement for Capello.
On the pitch, this rearranged friendly was a sobering experience for a makeshift England team. In among the odd positive, such as the lively performance of substitute Daniel Sturridge, there was a reminder of the harsh reality of England's current reduced position in football's European and world order.
The Netherlands team is not of the finest vintage; indeed coach Bert van Marwijk was berated by his country's media in his post-match press conference for perceived negativity, but they still possessed too much for England.
All judgements must be placed in context with a mention of England's missing men but there was an assurance of players such as Robben and Wesley Sneijder that Pearce's side did not possess. And this was with only a subdued 45-minute appearance from Arsenal's Robin van Persie.
Scott Parker, a contentious choice as captain ahead of Steven Gerrard, did justice to Pearce's selection with a typically whole-hearted effort including brave blocks and the odd shuddering tackle.
It was, in most respects, a low-key affair and the sort of phoney war that often breaks out in friendlies at this time of the season.
England's serious action will come in June but, as two supporters posed at Wembley with the famous Lord Kitchener poster adorned with the words "Harry Your Country Needs You", it may be that it is just about to start for the Football Association.