Ex-Guam boss Gary White in running for England U21 head coach job
He was once coached Asia's smallest footballing nation, but is now in the running for a plum job in his homeland of England.
Former Guam and Shanghai Shenxin manager Gary White is up against some of the biggest names in the British game as he goes for the role of England Under-21 coach, a position vacated by new national boss Gareth Southgate.
ESPN FC understands that the relative unknown has been shortlisted and will be interviewed on Friday. The other candidates are former U21 coach and legendary England defender Stuart Pearce, ex-Manchester United utility player Phil Neville, former Aston Villa and Spurs manager Tim Sherwood, current England U21 caretaker boss Aidy Boothroyd and Oxford United manager Michael Appleton.
It makes for quite a list, and was pooled from a staggering 250 applicants. But, clearly, the English FA see something in White, who began his career with the international teams of the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. But his biggest claim to fame was turning one-time whipping boys Guam into one of the AFC's most improved teams.
It would certainly be a brave move by the English FA as they will be aware of the scepticism that would likely greet the appointment of a 42-year-old head coach whose experience is limited to Asia and the Caribbean.
However, at a time when clubs are being slammed for not giving jobs to English managers, as a Southampton-born recipient of the FA elite coaching award with 18 years of experience in a variety of challenging environments, White surely has a strong case, despite the heavyweight competition.
White was once succeeded by none other than Andre Villas-Boas as head coach of the British Virgin Islands. In a strange twist of fate, the former Chelsea and Porto boss also ended up in Shanghai last year, but as boss of Shanghai SIPG -- one of the top clubs in the Super League.
White can point to the career of the Portuguese manager as evidence that starting at such a modest level should be no barrier to success.
And, for the confident, young coach, taking on the England U21 role would be a logical step in his bold career aim to one day manage his country.
When interviewed last October, White -- still with Shanghai Shenxin at the time -- declared his ultimate ambition. "I've got to keep having success wherever I go. That creates a brand as an individual. Then I'd like to try to get into the European game and end up becoming England manager," he told The Sun.
While his playing career was limited to non-league football at Bognor Regis in England and Fremantle City in Australia, White's self-belief as a coach can be backed up by a list of impressive achievements.
In 2016, White took over at Shenxin, with the club deep in relegation trouble in China's second tier. Drawing on his experience of making the most from limited resources, he steered the club to mid-table safety, without having any money to spend.
Despite saving the club from the drop, they did not renew White's contract. But the Englishman, who holds a UEFA Pro Licence in addition to the FA Elite Pro Licence, should not be out of work for long, having built a solid reputation over the past 18 years.
In 2012, White took on the job as head coach of Guam's international team. He oversaw a dramatic improvement in fortunes as he helped them rise to all-time high of 157 in the FIFA rankings.
The U.S. island territory in Micronesia has an estimated population of just over 160,000. But they enjoyed an impressive series of results under White in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. In the second preliminary round, Guam pulled off a memorable victory over India -- the world's second most populous nation.
There was also a win over Turkmenistan and a draw away to Oman as Guam generated a respectable seven points from eight matches to finish above India in a group topped by Iran.
Guam's form brought White to the attention of many, but he had already demonstrated the ability to bring tangible improvements to small nations.
At the age of just 24, White took on the role as head coach for the British Virgin Islands in 1998, lifting them from 187 in the FIFA world rankings to 161 in the space of a year.
This success was followed by a long stint with the Bahamas. While he did not manage to immediately lift the team's fortunes as dramatically, White did take them to an all-time high of 145 in the rankings in 2006 - a jump of 47 places from 2005. While coaching the national team, he also worked as technical director and worked on a number of development programmes.
Whether or not this list of achievements, far from home, will impress England fans is open to question. But they all point to a coach who can bring the best out of players and one who can get results.
He deserves his spot in the FA interview room alongside the likes of household names like Pearce, Sherwood and Phil Neville.
Paul Murphy has lived in Thailand for nine years, contributing to ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express (UK) sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK