England open to another foreigner

The English Football Association said on Thursday that it would consider foreign candidates for the vacant England head coach's position, which could clear the way for an approach to Jose Mourinho.

Speaking after Steve McClaren was sacked for failing to guide the squad to UEFA EURO 2008, FA Chief Executive Brian Barwick said the search for his successor would not be restricted to English or British candidates. "I don't think nationality will be an issue," said Barwick, the man who effectively appointed McClaren in the aftermath of the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.

Although Barwick made overtures at the time to both Guus Hiddink and Luiz Felipe Scolari, the FA had expressed a clear preference for a home-grown successor to Sven Goran Eriksson, England's first overseas coach. That helped McClaren get the job and his failure to repeat Eriksson's success has inevitably influenced thinking about what England should do next.

Former Real Madrid and AC Milan coach Fabio Capello was quick to declare his interest in the job. The Italian is unemployed after leaving Real and he told Italian TV channel Rai: "Me to coach England? It would be a challenge, a beautiful test to overcome and I would have the right age."

While Capello has an impressive pedigree, it is Mourinho who has been installed as the bookmakers' favourite. The Portuguese has been out of work since leaving Chelsea in September and may be tempted by a job that would allow him to stay in London, where his young children are at school.

O'Neill is also seen as a potential successor having applied unsuccessfully for the post when McClaren was appointed. Barwick admitted the task of finding a new coach would be handled differently to the last appointment.

"The recruitment process for the new coach begins now and we will do everything to get the right man for the job," he said. It will be done differently. We've got to learn lessons from the way we did it."

Geoff Thompson, the FA's chairman, admitted that the governing body had to accept its own share of responsibility for having appointed McClaren in the first place. "Of course we feel embarrassed," Thompson said.

"As we said earlier we expect as a major nation in Europe to qualify for the European Championships and World Cups. Of course we're embarrassed, disappointed, disappointed like all fans."