Scolari is given backing by Mills

FORMER England and Ipswich Town captain Mick Mills has backed the Football Association's decision to offer Luiz Felipe Scolari the chance to become the new national manager.

By Derek Davis

FORMER England and Ipswich Town captain Mick Mills has backed the Football Association's decision to offer Luiz Felipe Scolari the chance to become the new national manager.

Mills, who won 42 caps, under Sir Alf Ramsey and Ron Greenwood between 1973 and 1982, believes there was no outstanding candidate among English contenders and admits he will be glad to see the back of Sven Goran Eriksson.

The current Portuguese coach, who led Brazil to World Cup victory in 2002, beating England along the way, was formally offered the England manager's job by chief executive Brian Barwick on Wednesday

If the coach, known as Big Phil, agrees personal terms he will take over at the helm after the World Cup in Germany, where Portugal and England could meet again.

The decision to go down the foreign coach road once again has been met with criticism and ideally Mills would have liked to have seen an English manager but believes the FA have made a good choice.

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He said: “I'm not against appointing Scolari. Many people are clammering for an English coach and if there was an obvious candidate, I would be too. But it was impossible to choose between Sam Allardyce, Steve McClaren and Alan Curbishley, they were neck and neck and not one really stood out.”

Martin O'Neill was another strong candidate but Mills believes once the FA decided against sticking with a homegrown man, then Scolari was the top choice.

He said: “O'Neill would be regarded as British, but still not English. Once you have worn the shirt of another country then that is it. Wearing a Northern Ireland shirt is no different than wearing a Brazilian shirt when you are talking football.

“Once you decide to go the foreign coach route there are no doubting Scolari's credentials. He is a winner. I like him because he is not afraid to make tough decisions. He was brave enough to tell Figo: 'You are not for me' and stick by it.

“That is what this England team needs. This is a very good group of players yet they have not performed as well as they should have done. I believe that is because too many are walking in a comfort zone and they need to be kicked out of that.

“All players should need no more motivation than to play for England, but if they are not 100% committed then you need a manager who will fire them up.

“Sir Alf Ramsey, Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson all did that, they fired teams up and Scolari will be able to do that.”

Mills was not against Eriksson's appointment initially, but has been under-whelmed by the Swede as England manager.

Mills said: “What I want to know from an England manager is what he thinks. That guy never opened his mouth, therefore I couldn't trust him. He might not know anything about football, we never know because he never told us anything.”

The FA is expected to make an announcement next week when everything has been agreed and one of the issues could be who comes in with Scolari.

It is understood that a sticking point with O'Neill was his loyalty to his own coaching staff, Scot John Robinson and Englishman Steve Walford.

Mills believes Scolari should be allowed to bring in his own man, but should also have no responsibility for anything other than the senior team.

He said: “He should have whoever he is comfortable with. His own man and perhaps a young English coach to work alongside him. Not necessarily to be groomed, but just someone the players can relate to.”

Not being able to speak fluent English is not an issue either according to Mills. He added: “Rafael Benitez did not speak English so well when he first arrived, but he soon picked it up and he is an excellent coach and communicator.”

The appointment needs to be ratified by the FA board and although they could hold an emergency conference call, the matter is expected to be dealt with at the scheduled meeting next Thursday.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick returned from Lisbon last night and confirmed he had held talks with the 57-year-old Brazilian.

Barwick said: “I think it is well-evidenced now that we were in Lisbon, speaking to Felipe Scolari, as part of the process of recruiting the next coach and that process continues.”

Barwick was given permission to speak to Scolari in March after FA chairman Geoff Thompson contacted his opposite number in the Portuguese Football Federation, Gilberto Madail.

Scolari is under contract as Portugal coach until after the World Cup and reports in that country suggested he still has yet to agree matters such as salary and the timing of his appointment.

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