England are in shambles, so who should they hire? Paging Big Sam ...
Sam Allardyce for England. The mere suggestion seems to confirm that the birthplace of the game is a prehistoric football nation. It's the FA's style of evolution: Roy Hodgson's Neanderthal-style management replaced by Big Sam's Cro-Magnon version.
It would confirm the impression given by England's performances at Euro 2016. They were tactically and technically behind their rivals. Despite the riches of the Premier League, the national side's approach this summer was archaic and underdeveloped. Would the Sunderland manager, with his reputation for employing rather rustic long-ball strategies, improve England's prospects of winning the World Cup or European Championships?
A different question needs to be addressed first: Who is responsible for the problems in the English game. The FA believes that the structure of the game is fundamentally sound. The three-man panel that will choose the next manager -- chief executive Martin Glenn, technical director Dan Ashworth and vice-chairman David Gill -- want a man who will work within the system. Allardyce would certainly tick the boxes for the recruitment department.
The fault lines in the English game run deep, though, and flawed thinking at the FA has helped widen the cracks. Hodgson was an appallingly bad choice as England manager in 2012. The ruling body could not have picked a worse man to take advantage of the talented group of players who have emerged over the past four years. On the face of it, Allardyce would be another conservative, misguided choice.
The 61-year-old is no Hodgson. Allardyce's teams always play to a plan. The blueprint may involve launching long balls and systematic fouling to disrupt the opposition's flow (just ask Arsene Wenger), but players know what is expected of them. Allardyce's sides operate with a clarity of thought that was missing in Hodgson's muddled thinking in France.
Throughout a 25-year managerial career that started in Limerick in Ireland and had stops at Preston North End, Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United before his arrival at the Stadium of Light, Allardyce has looked to take advantage of the latest innovations in coaching and sports science.
At Bolton during the early 2000s he was one of the leading purveyors of psychology and statistical analysis in the Premier League. Today analytical tools like Prozone are commonplace, but 15 years ago Allardyce was one of the few managers using these methods to give his teams an edge.
He zealously used data to support his own instincts and applied what he learned to help his team play to their strengths. Sometimes it's not pretty, as Allardyce combats the likes of Arsenal's technically brilliant skill on the ball with brute force.
While purists despise Allardyce's methods, he is notoriously prickly about the way he is perceived. He famously claimed that he would be lauded if he was foreign and his name was "Alladici." He would argue that his approach is similar to Antonio Conte's or even Jose Mourinho's. There is some truth in the assertion.
Allardyce believes that his Englishness caused him to be overlooked when big jobs became available. There are other reasons why he made so few short lists. He has never won a trophy and his main boast is that none of his teams were relegated from the Premier League. Given some of the resources available to him over the years and the situation when he took over Sunderland last season, avoiding the drop is impressive enough. But the great survivor never did enough to earn a chance to compete at Champions League level.
He might find himself in the right place at the right moment with England. Allardyce interviewed for the role a decade ago and arrived for the interview armed with a computer-generated presentation. Unfortunately, the FA didn't have PowerPoint handy and the printout version of Allardyce's pitch did not have the same pizzazz . Steve McClaren got the job.
It could be an allegory for Allardyce's career. High-tech ambitions, low-tech realities.
Yet he was way ahead of the FA a decade ago and the same is probably true today. He also knows how to galvanise team spirit, which -- as Chris Coleman proved with Wales -- is a crucial knack at international level, where managers have access to the players for short, limited periods of time.
In a field of possible England candidates that includes Jurgen Klinsmann and Steve Bruce, Allardyce's management credentials start to look plausible. Appointing Big Sam would not be the great leap forward, but he is a much likelier winner than the fossilised Hodgson. England, at least, would be heading in the right direction.
Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC on the Premier League. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.