ENGLAND – England down-turn

FOLLOWING MONTHS of speculation, it was announced that Luiz Felipe Scolari had been chosen to succeed Sven-Göran Eriksson in the England hot seat, only for the Brazilian to turn down the FA’s overtures.

Chief executive, Brian Barwick, was sighted in Lisbon last week waving a 350,000 euro-a-month carrot, supposedly leading to a pre-contractual agreement. The charismatic Portugal manager, in charge since taking Brazil to World Cup victory in 2002, had the most experience of any of the candidates. However, 24 hours after making the headlines, both here in Portugal and in England, Big Phil said “no”. The press had been camping outside his home around the clock, a situation viewed as intolerable by the manager: “If that is part of another culture, it is not part of my culture”, he said, “I am not the coach, and will not be the coach.” Scolari has now entered into negotiations with the Portuguese FA to extend his current contract by a further two years, before it expires this summer.

A Scolari appointment would have ignored demands by the English public to have a Briton appointed to the job, and scotched the hopes of Steve McClaren, Sam Allardyce and Martin O’Neill, who are all back in the frame now, albeit less than happy about the situation. The episode has also left the FA with copious portions of egg on their faces. They would surely love to snap up Arsene Wenger, and get themselves out of the mess they have made. The Frenchman has admitted for the first time that he would jump at the chance of managing England, if he were free. Alas, the Arsenal boss has a contract up to 2008 and is a man of his word, England will have to wait.

England’s World Cup hopes suffered a double blow immediately after this fiasco. To see Michael Owen limping off the pitch after only 10 minutes of his return from injury can be seen as a disaster; Wayne Rooney being carried off at Stamford Bridge, is a catastrophe. The 20-year-old striker broke the fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot, ruling him out for six weeks, the exact time left before the World Cup gets underway.  England now face the daunting prospect of starting the tournament without their deadliest weapon, and without a recognised striking partnership.