It has been described as football's "impossible job" and, as of this morning, it no longer belongs to Steve McClaren. The former Middlesbrough manager has paid the ultimate price after becoming the first England head coach since Graham Taylor in 1994 to fail to lead the Three Lions to a major championship.

McClaren's reign, a mere 15 months, is the shortest in the nation's history, and there are many who believe that unrelenting media criticism and unrealistic public expectations have grown to an extent that an already difficult job has become all but intolerable. "I wouldn't want the England job for all the tea in China," was how Paul Jewell, the former Wigan boss, recently reacted to the suggestion he might be interested.

Sir Alex Ferguson has also spoken disdainfully of a "mocking culture" in England that ensures, according to the Scot, the national coach "is going to get crucified no matter what happens". Whatever validity these claims have, however, it should also be pointed out that the resources and array of talent at England's disposal will ensure that plenty of coaches remain willing to bring this so-called poisoned chalice to their lips.

As McClaren's predecessor, Sven-Goran Eriksson, said only last week: "If the England position was offered to 100 coaches around the world, 99 would accept it." Certainly, the challenge of ensuring that the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney replicate their club form in the international arena is one which will appeal to the egos of high-profile figures throughout the game, although few expect that it will be sufficient to tempt the likes of Ferguson or Arsene Wenger from their plum Premiership posts.

Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill has been installed as the early bookies favourite but despite being interviewed for the job prior to McClaren's appointment, the former Celtic manager might consider that he has unfinished business at Villa Park. In any case, is he the right man? England fans certainly appear divided on whether the volatile Irishman should succeed in landing the job for which his mentor, Brian Clough, was famously overlooked.

Then there's the inimitable Jose Mourinho. It is widely believed that the self-anointed 'Special One' would prefer a post with one of Spain or Italy's top flight clubs, but could he be tempted to remain in England and renew his successful alliance with former Chelsea charges Lampard, John Terry and Joe Cole?

Luiz Felipe Scolari will also be mentioned, having previously been the FA's preferred candidate to succeed Eriksson, but could he be lured away from a Portugal, who have qualified for UEFA EURO 2008, to a team which won't be competing in Austria and Switzerland? The same could be said of Guus Hiddink, whose Russia side advanced at England's expense, while Jurgen Klinsmann - though well-regarded from his time at Tottenham Hotspur - may well find that his insistence on being based in California proves an insurmountable stumbling block.

More realistic candidates might number the Italian duo of Marcello Lippi and Fabio Capello, both of whom have declared themselves open once again to offers of employment. With Capello having already declared an interest, could he or his fellow countryman provide the England fans with the high-profile appointment they crave?

And what of the English contenders? Alan Curbishley has ruled himself out after making the shortlist last time around, while Sam Allardyce's stock has fallen due to a shaky start to his tenure at Newcastle United, but the latter could well find favour in some quarters.

A dark horse has also emerged in the shape of Alan Shearer. Throwing a man without any managerial experience into such a high-pressure post would inevitably be risky, but the 63-times capped striker is not without his supporters, and they will point out that Germany saw a similar gamble pay off with Klinsmann.

It's a matter on which every football fan will have their own view. Who has shoulders wide enough to take on arguably the toughest job in football and lead England towards South Africa 2010?