With Fabio Capello set to retire after the European Championships in 2012 the search for a successor has already begun.
In a move which should cause concern for England fans the F.A. have announced that the next manager of the national team will be English.
Terry Venables, who was forced out of the job in 1996, was the last England manager widely regarded to have actually done a good job Since Kevin Keegan cracked and resigned live on air in the aftermath of a loss to Germany there has been a seemingly perpetual cycle of change. First Keegan failed and so the F.A. decided that we needed a foreign manager. Then Sven Goran Eriksson's England team were knocked out of a second consecutive international tournament by Portugal on penalties and it was decided that his replacement should probably be English.
And so the job was handed to Steve McClaren who had only ever managed mid table Middlesbrough. In fairness to the F.A. they did try and tempt Luiz Felipe Scolari first but the Brazilian was far too shrewd an operator to actually accept their offer, sensibly citing possible media intrusion as his reason.
McClaren did not exactly have the top teams in Europe beating down his door and yet he found himself being given one of the most illustrious, not too mention well renumerated, jobs in the game. McClaren's sole qualification, apart from his nationality, was having won the League Cup with Middlesbrough and he was well out of his depth in international management.
England failed to qualify for the European Championships, McClaren was unceremoniously relieved of his duties and the F.A. resolved to find a suitable foreigner to replace him. Capello was duly appointed and England have been far more effective under him, although they once again frustrated when the World Cup actually came around.
When an elite football team is in need of a new manager they are likely to have certain preferences rather than specific parameters. For instance when Real Madrid found themselves in the market for a replacement for Manuel Pellegrini this summer they would probably have liked to have appointed a Spanish manager, ideally one with a strong connection to the club.
The foremost considerations though were ability and reputation, rather than nationality and allegiance, and as it turned out the best qualified candidate was not Spanish. Real Madrid did not exclude Jose Mourinho from their considerations because he was Portugese or had previously worked with Barcelona. They kept an open mind because they wanted to appoint the best available manager.
The F.A. it seems work on a very different level. Not only are they willing to set specific parameters but they are willing to set them years in advance, when managerial reputations can be won and lost in the space of a season.
At present Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson are the only outstanding English candidates but if Liverpool fail to find a suitable buyer and the club's financial sfuture is not secured Hodgson's reign could be disastrous. Likewise if Tottenham's injury crisis deepens and Champions League football starts to take its toll life at White Hart Lane could become a little less comfortable for Harry Redknapp.
The truth is that no other top club or country in world football would consider appointing an English manager at present. When one of the most sought after jobs in the game becomes available the shortlist is likely to consist of names like Jose Mourinho, Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Guus Hiddink, Louis Van Gaal and Guus Hiddink.
Occasionally a relatively unproven manager will build a reputation with their own national team such as Joachim Low has done with Germany and Vicente del Bosque with Spain and this is presumably what the F.A. is hoping would happen with either Hodgson or Redknapp. However appointing a manager who is unproven at the very highest level will always represent a risk and the future of the national team is not something the F.A. should be gambling with.
If you are going to narrow your list of potential candidates down why not do it in a way which rewards excellence rather than nationality? The F.A. could demand that the next England manager had enjoyed sustained success at club level, a successful spell with another national team or experience of working with some of the best players in the world.
While the vast majority of England fans want to see an English manager at the helm, nationality should not be the only criteria under consideration. Capello's replacement should be the best qualified candidate for the job. Even with two more seasons of football to be played it is highly unlikely that man will be English.