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By ESPN Staff

A special one for a special job

It is lauded as 'the impossible job', but with so many club managers already ruling themselves out of contention for the vacant England role, the decision to appoint a new boss is becoming easier by the second.

Sacked by Chelsea, Jose 'The Special One' Mourinho is now the favourite to take over one of the toughest jobs in football. And with good reason.

The Portuguese has jumped to the top of the bookies' list after declaring that he would listen to any proposals put forward by the English FA and it comes as no surprise that the most high-profile manager without a job at the moment, has been repeatedly linked with the position.

Indeed Mourinho has some powerful backing from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, who said: 'If the FA consult me about it I'll give them a shortlist of one, and tell them to get Mourinho'; and another knight of the realm, Sir Bobby Robson, who thinks Mourinho would be 'a very good choice.'

It is hard to ignore such informed appraisals and the former Chelsea boss fits the bill for many different reasons.

Firstly, having courted the spotlight continuously at Stamford Bridge, the English media (who have already dissuaded Luis Felipe Scolari from taking the job), hold no fears for Mourinho.

He is well versed in the art of media seduction, has experience of how the English press works, and his unique interview style would certainly provide a welcome change from the likes of Steve McClaren and Sven Goran-Eriksson.

As would his tactics. While the fans waited half an hour for McClaren to ring the changes when England went two goals down against Croatia at Wembley, Mourinho, as he has done so many times at Chelsea, would have shaken things up immediately.

Indeed, his time at Stamford Bridge suggests that he is a man of action when something goes wrong, and that is just what England need.

While he may have gained critics for a negative style of play (which would appear to have eventually cost him his job), it is hard to argue with his results. Losing only 21 of his 185 games in charge, Mourinho helped to build the Premier League's best-ever home record, beating Liverpool's 64-game unbeaten run; and also racked up an incredible five-year personal milestone - last tasting a home defeat against Beira Mar in 2002 while in charge of Porto.

In club management he has impressed, winning a host of trophies - including back-to-back UEFA Cup and Champions League titles and two Portuguese Championships with Porto; as well as two Premiership titles, two Carling Cups, one FA Cup and a double Manager of the Year award during his time with Chelsea.

His relationship with his players, most notably John Terry and Frank Lampard, is also a credit to his management style and something that would benefit the English national team in the long-run.

Unlike Arsene Wenger, Mourinho strived to bring young English players through into his squad, purchasing the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Cole and Steve Sidwell to complement the English spine of Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Bridge that had been brought into the side prior to his arrival.

He has shown a willingness to blood English youth players, with Scott Sinclair and Michael Mancienne both getting chances to impress and it is a credit to him that 14 of the current Chelsea reserve squad are English.

Indeed, he appears to be of the mentality that the fabled English grit is of great importance to a side and this cannot be understated as England are in dire need of someone to bring back their fighting spirit.

For those who want a passionate man at the helm, you only have to cast your mind back to Mourinho's charge down the touchline when FC Porto defeated Manchester United on their way to Champions League success in 2004. Or even to the numerous occasions during his tenure at Chelsea when he would be found stalking up and down the side of the pitch bellowing instructions to his players.

He wears his heart on his sleeve, not unlike the ever-popular Stuart Pearce, and certainly boasts the credentials and the passion to suggest that he is the right man for the job.

Importantly, he also has the fans' backing. Not that that seems to matter to FA chief Brian Barwick and company, as they showed with their appointment of McClaren, but it is an important point when you consider the backlash that unpopular managers have to endure whenever they fail.

Even if Mourinho's England side lost to Croatia in the World Cup qualifiers next year, you get the impression that the kind of treatment McClaren received would not be repeated with Jose. Charm is an important characteristic for a national manager, McClaren missed that trick, but Mourinho is master of the art and it would be refreshing for the FA to appoint someone who the fans were actually in favour of.

Potentially, the only stumbling blocks to any deal with Mourinho would seem to be his wage demands, and also his desire to manage the Portuguese national side. Yet, if the FA can afford to pay-off McClaren with a reported £2.5million and continue to pay Eriksson for a year after his departure, perhaps money is not much of an issue after all.

More of a problem would be the Portuguese's desire to return to his homeland. With Scolari's position looking tenuous after a poor qualifying campaign and a PR disaster when he was charged with misconduct for punching Serbian defender Ivica Dragutinovic, the Portuguese FA would get a welcome popularity boost if they installed Mourinho and the man himself has expressed a desire to take the position in the future.

With Portugal through to Euro 2008 though, there is a window of opportunity for the English FA to act quickly and lure Mr Mourinho towards the England job, as it is unlikely that Scolari will be sacked before the Championships begin this summer.

With a mountain of refusals piling up at Soho Square already, the only decision that the FA really have to make is whether to follow the advice of Ferguson and the English public and appoint Mourinho for the long haul.


  • Any comments? Email Jon Carter