The rejection game

YOU can tell, it seems, the prestige of an international football management job by the calibre of people turning it down. So England have been knocked back by Jose Mourinho (very good) and Scotland by David Moyes (not bad). Last time I checked on the Republic of Ireland post, though, it had just been turned down by Jordan and Peter Andre (the Clough and Taylor of reality television), with the job coming down to a straight fight between Fred Talbot and Chantelle from Big Brother.

(The bonus for the FAI there is that they won’t need to pay relocation costs if Fred gets the job, as he can just leap across the Irish Sea for games, like he used to on that giant weather map on This Morning.)

From this, we can judge that the England job is the most likely to end up in safe hands.

It’s inevitable, of course, that the England post will dominate the headlines, although I’ve two words for any Scot trying to cry media bias here: Daily Record. (In a newspaper that has been known to carry full-page stories on the personal lives of Scotsport presenters, I would be amazed if the search for Steve McClaren’s replacement has ever warranted more than four paragraphs beneath the shinty results.)

I believe those at the FA have done the right thing in getting Mourinho linked with the job. It has been suggested that The Special One was just using the England post to flush out other, more attractive club management opportunities in Italy. My argument is that it’s a two-way street.

If you can get stories in the papers stating that Mourinho is interested in your job, is having talks about your job, then other top European coaches are bound to follow. It doesn’t matter if he ultimately turns it down; all that matters is that he doesn’t immediately rule himself out. In this way, the FA have – by accident or design – managed to keep Fabio Capello interested in the position. And if you’re going to have a second choice, he’s not a bad one.

Scotland, on the other hand, seem to be struggling a bit, simply because the people who have ruled themselves out are not famous enough. Moyes is the most high-profile candidate to have said he’s not in the running, and he would be the first to admit he’s no Mourinho.

As for those who want it, George Burley, Billy Davies and Mark McGhee are hardly names to get the pulse racing, are they? Graeme Souness is the biggest name in the frame and, well, I get the impression most Scotsmen would rather have Berti Vogts back than take him.

It doesn’t help when the guy who was doing the job before leaves you for a club lying 15th in the Premier League, but I can’t help but feel that the SFA would have more chance of getting a top-class coach if they could get a really big name to have talks with them for a few days, then turn the job down. Guus Hiddink, perhaps? Gerard Houllier? I would suggest Sir Alex Ferguson, but that would just be silly.

The Republic of Ireland have tried to go down the ‘big-name speculation’ route, and fallen flat on their faces. Terry Venables has a great coaching reputation, but in the current climate, they might as well have gone for Steve McClaren’s umbrella. Paul Jewell decided he would rather manage the worst club in the Premier League.

In all of this, it’s England I have the highest hopes for. But if you’re a Republic of Ireland fan, I wouldn’t bother keeping summer 2010 free. Unless you do get Fred Talbot, of course, in which case World Cup qualification is a certainty.


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