FA TURN TO ROY HODGSON
Barring an unexpected hitch, Roy Hodgson will become the new England manager after it was confirmed the Football Association had been granted permission to speak with the West Brom boss.
Hodgson had been in the frame to replace Fabio Capello two years ago following England's calamitous World Cup campaign.
In the end though, Capello stayed in his job and Hodgson opted to join Liverpool for an ill-fated spell, which seemed to signal the death knell for any England ambitions.
However, it seems the four-man Club England team charged with replacing Capello never lost faith in the 64-year-old.
And, they stunned the English game by confirming an approach for Hodgson, when almost everyone expected Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp would be top of their list.
"I'm grateful to (chairman) Jeremy (Peace) and all at West Bromwich Albion for their co-operation in allowing us to approach Roy, who I have since spoken with," said FA chairman David Bernstein.
"Roy is the only manager we have approached and we remain on course to make an appointment within the timescale we set out soon after Fabio Capello's departure.
"Further conversations will now take place with Roy and my Club England colleagues before any further announcements can be made."
The move marks the beginning of the end of a tortuous process, which began on February 8, when Capello confirmed his resignation in protest at John Terry being stripped of the captaincy without having the opportunity to put any input into the discussions.
It is still possible Hodgson will say no.
That does seem highly unlikely though as, in an extensive interview earlier this year, during which he touched on the England job only as an aside, the Londoner said the job would be "a tremendous honour".
And, as his contract is due to expire in June, Hodgson would command barely any compensation, another factor which may just have helped the FA reach their decision.
"The club are currently in negotiations with Roy about a new contract - his current deal ends on June 30 - and remain very keen to bring these talks to a successful conclusion," said West Brom in a statement.
"However, Roy has expressed a desire to explore this opportunity and, accordingly, the club have granted him permission to speak to the FA."
Chairman Jeremy Peace added: "Roy has done a fantastic job over the past 15 months and the fact the FA want to discuss the England role with him is testament to that.
"Roy is a proud Englishman and we can understand why he wants to speak to the FA about this highly-prestigious managerial position.
"However, we have emphasised to Roy how much we would like him to remain as our head coach and continue his major contribution to our project at the Hawthorns as we look to establish ourselves as a Barclays Premier League club.
"Everyone here has an excellent working relationship with him and he is immensely popular with our supporters."
Hodgson has built up an impressive CV, which includes spells in the international game with Switzerland - whom he guided to the 1994 World Cup and Euro 96, although he resigned before the Finals themselves - Finland and the United Arab Emirates.
However, this is unlikely to win over those who feel Redknapp should have been asked first.
The Tottenham manager might be more than a little angry himself as, while he has denied it, the speculation surrounding his chances of getting the job seems to have damaged the London outfit, who had won just one of nine Premier League games since Capello's departure until Sunday's 2-0 victory over Blackburn.
It also begs the question as to why the FA waited until now to make their move given West Brom have been comfortable in mid-table for a number of weeks, their safety assured long before the goalless draw with Aston Villa.
Even as recently as a fortnight ago, Club England sources were indicating that more than two people were in the frame for a job they wanted an Englishman to fill if at all possible.
On Thursday, they categorically ruled departing Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola out as a potential candidate.
Now though, those same voices are insisting only one person has been approached, a position that is likely to remain until such time as Hodgson says he doesn't want the job.
It is a response that, given all the evidence to the contrary, will almost certainly never be heard.
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