Football Association chairman David Bernstein has claimed he will not begin the hunt for Fabio Capello’s successor until after Euro 2012, with Harry Redknapp the overwhelming favourite ahead of West Bromwich Albion’s Roy Hodgson.
Beyond the Tottenham and West Brom managers, there would be an element of head-scratching among those who desire a home-grown candidate.
Yet again this season, England’s four Champions League contenders are being coached by non-Englishmen and while Tony Pulis and Chris Hughton are joining Redknapp in gaining Europa League experience, it was significant that Chelsea chose Andre Villas-Boas when they needed a new manager this summer.
It is that kind of decision the FA are aiming to remove the need for with their grand £105m St George’s Park project in Burton, of which Sheepshanks has been made chairman.
As with the academy structure among elite clubs, Sheepshanks is aware the fruits of St George’s Park – a centre for coaches to be coached – will not be seen immediately.
However, he is confident the long-term aims will be met.
“It is unlikely we will see a difference in 2014 or 2015,” he said. “When anything new becomes operational, it usually does have some immediate benefits. But I see this as a very long-term project.
“I think we will only see the fruits of St George’s Park from 2020 onwards.”
Asked if that meant England would never have another foreign manager, Sheepshanks replied: “Let’s hope we don’t need one.
“Another of the success measures is that we have homegrown Premier League and international managers emanating from the educational advantages that will be offered by St George’s Park.”
There are currently 100,000 qualified coaches in England. By 2018, the FA expect to have 250,000, raising standards right across the game.
You do not have to be in Sheepshanks’s company long to understand how enthusiastic he is for the project.
A grey, drizzly day did not show the magnificent rural surroundings at their best, while a number of visitors struggled to find the precise location a few miles outside Burton.
However, it is now possible to picture how the imaginative complex will look.
Construction of two hotels is well under way, 11 full-sized pitches already exist – Burton Albion train on one of them – and, when completed, the whole construction will create 300 full-time jobs.
Sheepshanks positively radiated energy as he wandered into a space that will eventually become the England manager’s room, or explained why the vast building could be used as an indoor facility, not just for football or England’s Futsal team but netball or basketball, two sports the FA have spoken to about potentially loaning out facilities.
Medical facilities will be second to none, providing research invaluable to every professional club in the country. FIFA have already given positive vibes about awarding the facility a prized ‘F-mark’, of which only 23 exist in the world, and none in England.
It is the kind of complex every senior professional figure has felt was a good idea for decades, the coaching hub that has enabled France, Italy and Spain to produce players of such a high standard.
England’s will not do that.
It was the fear of having responsibility for producing talent taken away that led to many clubs refusing to get involved and effectively having the project mothballed a decade ago.
Thanks to the likes of Sheepshanks and the FA’s director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking, it was revived in 2008.
By September next year, it is hoped to be open for business, providing a base for all England’s 24 teams, from the seniors down. Currently, it is on time. Crucially, it is on budget.
Everything, according to Sheepshanks, will be part of a business plan which, by year three, should be getting somewhere near to break even.
“St George’s Park belongs to English football,” Sheepshanks said. “I hope it will be a new era for the game.
“It will be a success if it discharges the demands of English football, whether that is in coach education, sports medicine, sports science, leadership training and other career paths.”