England to play a waiting game
After England’s defeat in Moscow, which meant qualification was no longer in their own hands, there was discussion among the FA board regarding Steve McClaren’s future.
The person who was pushing for a re-assessment of McClaren’s position was FA chairman Geoff Thompson.
But there was a feeling among the board, led by Sir David Richards, the chairman of the Premier League, that if the criterion was to have an English manager then McClaren was the best option as the choices to succeed him are not good.
You have to look a way down the Premier League table before you come to an English manager and the highest-ranking of those, Portsmouth’s Harry Redknapp, would not be a contender for various reasons.
And although McClaren may not have been on course to lead England to Euro 2008, it was felt he had done good work elsewhere.
But after the Russia result in Israel, the whole situation changed and leading up to Wednesday's game against Croatia there was no talk of McClaren being sacked - and no talk even of an FA board meeting being held.
But after England’s defeat by Croatia, McClaren’s position became untenable.
There was an emergency FA board meeting called for 0830 on Wednesday where the 10 members voted unanimously to sack McClaren - and also to get rid of Terry Venables.
At the meeting, the board also decided it would make a concerted attempt to protect FA chief executive Brian Barwick, who was very closely associated with McClaren’s appointment and consequently damaged by it.
And so the entire board was present when they held their media conference to announce the sacking of McClaren, in order to throw a defensive wall around Barwick
And when Barwick was questioned about his position, Richards quickly came to his defence and made the specific point that the board is taking a collective responsibility for England’s failure.
The board want Barwick to continue in his role because of the work he has done in areas such as bringing in commercial deals with television, which has been very good for the FA.
Barwick’s biggest mistake over the appointment of McClaren was to announce that a successor to Sven-Goran Eriksson would be made before the 2006 World Cup. The process was horribly rushed and ultimately shambolic. McClaren was not the first choice for the job - that was Portugal boss Luis Felipe Scolari, who turned the job down.
The best time to look for an international manager is after a major tournament, because that is when many of them come to the end of their contracts.
So, England should look for their next manager in July 2008 after the tournament in Austria and Switzerland, when managers will be available. The FA Board has realised that now.
And as England do not have any competitive matches before that, the FA can afford to take its time over an appointment. The FA knows it cannot afford to get it wrong.
For the friendlies that England will play in the meantime, the feeling is that caretaker managers can be found. That has happened in the past with Peter Taylor and Howard Wilkinson, for example.
As for the new permanent manager, the board has not decided whether he will be English or foreign - the field is open. But there are not that many English managers who could realistically be considered so the board may well be tempted to look abroad.
However, the FA wants Barwick to look at all the options and also at various systems of management.
The board has realised that Barwick must work out with FA development director Trevor Brooking what exactly the role of the England manager is.
There is still a lot of confusion about that. Is the England manager solely the head coach of the first team? Or do his responsibilities extend beyond that?
The FA also wants to copy the French model of grooming candidates from within the national team set-up and provide an intensive system of study to better equip future managers.
The idea is so that there is a smooth transition from one manager to another, as a number two is promoted.
Of course, this happened with McClaren but unfortunately it has not been a success this time.
The FA also wants to revive the project to create a national centre at Burton – much like the French academy at Clairefontaine - which was put on the back burner because of the amount of money that was required to build Wembley.
Wembley has now been finished and is bringing in money. And elsewhere the FA’s funding has improved, largely through the deals that Barwick has struck, and that means Burton is back on the agenda.
The FA is now keen to make the fundamental changes that they have talked about in the past but not made.