As the nation's most illustrious football scribes holed up in Manchester for an interminable week, attending England's two final World Cup qualifiers, a significant event took place in a Manchester restaurant last Monday night.
Bolton Wanderers' manager Sam Allardyce was being wined and dined by ten newspaper correspondents, the most influential in football in this country.
They had decided among themselves that Big Sam was now the Anointed One for life after Sven-Goran Eriksson, so they decided it was time to schmooze with him.
I'm told that one or two steers are emanating from the Football Association's ivory tower in Soho Square that Allardyce is highly regarded.
He has the reputation of giving it straight to his players and knitting together a League of Nations squad at the Reebok Stadium into a coherent whole.
Despite his rather antiquated public image as a bluff, Northern blusterer, he is deemed to be innovative, with all sorts of technical gizmos introduced at Bolton and the team has played above itself in recent years. Why, they're even in Europe this season.
Which is fine, up to a point. Allardyce is also keen to post his credentials with anyone from the media who asks him about the England job.
He also points out that he's English and it's about time the top man came again from this country.
It would also be preferable that the new head coach didn't spend all his time haranguing the officials throughout the game, as he does with Bolton. And have you seen Bolton Wanderers play?
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I feel sorry for the ball after a time, it's black and blue. And they do love the long throw.
There is another Englishman at present in club management who is better qualified than Allardyce and all the others favoured by those football writers who think they are the king-makers. But they wouldn't want him at any price, because both parties have previous with each other.
Glenn Hoddle should get the job after Eriksson.
No other current manager in the frame has his coaching credentials, knowledge of the world game and the stature as a former outstanding player.
He is the right age - he's 48 next week - and has sorted out his attitude to players, the media and his own ambitions since he fell from grace in 1999.
Every group of players coached by Hoddle achieves football that is pleasing to the eye and Wolverhampton Wanderers are in that pattern.
They're having a staccato season in the Championship, but there's no reason to disagree with Hoddle when he says that they'll be in the promotion zone come what he terms 'the business end of the season'.
Already he has stayed longer at Molineux than many thought and he has impressed those who had categorised him without meeting him.
On the last two occasions when I've interviewed him, he has been great value.
He was fascinating about the debt he owes Arsene Wenger for introducing him to coaching at Monaco almost 20 years ago and last week his take on Wayne Rooney - likening him to Michel Platini and Diego Maradona - was generous and enlightening.
This from the man who has often been pilloried for not rating enough highly-talented players like David Beckham when he played under him for England.
If Beckham hadn't been so petulant against Argentina in 1998, England might have gone close to the World Cup under Hoddle. They played superbly with ten men and would have won through Sol Campbell's header if Alan Shearer hadn't fouled a defender wastefully from a corner.
That performance and the tactically sophisticated draw in Italy that got England to the '98 World Cup showed just what Hoddle could do with top players.
He was badly sold short over his remarks about the disabled in 1999. Hoddle isn't the first football man to jumble up his thoughts and give them an imprecise, insensitive meaning and he paid a very high price for trusting a broadsheet football writer.
Hoddle's thoughts about the disabled are a good deal more humane than what he is alleged to have said in 1999.
Just ask Gavin Peacock, the former Chelsea footballer, now a radio summariser. Peacock can't praise Hoddle enough for his work with the disabled.
When he was Peacock's manager at Chelsea, he discovered that his son was disabled. Hoddle thoughtfully allowed Peacock to find time throughout the week to look after his son, even if it meant he had to curtail training.
He knew that a great professional like Peacock would make up the time lost while making it clear that his family came first. Gavin Peacock won't hear a bad word against Glenn Hoddle.
Statistically, Hoddle is the most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey. He is now a humbler, more approachable person since his contrasting fortunes in football over the past few years.
He doesn't spend inordinate amounts of time anymore demonstrating in training his superb football skills to inferior players, something that rankled in the past. His pedigree as a coach is acknowledged.
He won't make the press laugh, like Sam Allardyce will but who would bring more dignity to the job? And who cares if the press will set their face against Hoddle, because of past misunderstandings?
If Hoddle isn't considered for the England job, it'll be for reasons that have nothing to do with ability.
Unappreciated Ellis finally contemplating the final whistle
So is the Doug Ellis reign at Villa Park now on its last knockings after his revelation at a fascinating shareholders' annual meeting that he was seriously considering a takeover bid?
I think the signs are more favourable than in the past.
Seasoned Ellis watchers, and cynics - and the two are often convertible terms - believe that his announcement about a serious interest in the club was a typical stroke he's pulled in the past.
Veterans of the Villa Park power struggles will point to the occasions when the chairman has hinted that he might step aside - in the club's interests, blah, blah, blah - but then the matter is quietly shelved.
This time, I'm not so sure. Apparently the lawyers were climbing all over Ellis' statement before he stood up to face the shareholders, to ensure he said as little as possible without incurring the wrath of the Stock Exchange. And for the first time in my memory he wouldn't speak, either on or off the record, afterwards.
For those who know Doug Ellis' readiness to talk to the media, that was an eye-opener.
Some comments from the floor were courteous while others went straight to the point, with one fan saying: 'What happens to the club if you suddenly keel over?'
Underlying the whole session, though, was the awareness that time is running out for the Doug Ellis regime as he approaches his 82nd birthday.
He was at pains to stress that he'd been back in his office for the past three weeks and that he'd been told at first hand that a heart by-pass can lead to a new lease of life. But Doug is a realist.
When the meeting finished after 90 minutes he looked and sounded tired. Understandably so.
Even his implacable critics ought to recognise his courtesy in dealing with the varied degrees of vituperation and I could only discern one pro-Ellis monologue that might have been planted.
His detractors had the chance to vent their spleen. It's a pity many of them weren't more succinct. Why do so many babble when a microphone is in their hand? They just play into the hands of a wily platform performer like Doug Ellis.
He says he's 'interested' in the proposal from an unnamed quarter and this time I believe him. Ellis felt Ray Ranson's bid of £47 million last summer undervalued the club and with surrounding land valued at around £20m, it would take something like £60m to make him sell up.
I understand that those interested are Villa fans and judging by the chairman's comments on Friday, that will be highly relevant.
It may just be a platitude for him to say that the key is the sort of people who'd take the club forward - rather than the money on offer - but such a scenario would allow Ellis to step down with honour and remain a welcome presence on match days.
He would love still to sit in the directors' box. We shall see. Possibly within a month.
If so, David O'Leary and his successors in the manager's office could regret his passing. It was always handy to point the finger at the chairman's foibles when the team fell short, season after season.
'Don't blame me, blame Deadly Doug' loses impact when it's trotted out for so long.
The annual meeting yielded some interesting nuggets, not least of all how much it costs to sign footballers these days.
We were told that the total cost of buying six players in the close season was £14.963m but when you add their salaries for the first season, it shoots up to £21.888m.
Villa managed to bring in £5.23m for the sale of Darius Vassell and Nobby Solano - including salaries for the forthcoming season - so that left a commitment of £16.658m towards new players.
Add the loan deals bringing in Erik Bakke and James Milner before the end of August and that's a solid investment by the club.
That's a salutary corrective if you hear David O'Leary complaining again about a lack of depth in his squad. Villa's stake in new players was double that of West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City - and even Arsenal.
With a new training ground, costing £8m, due to be ready for the start of next season, it's simply unfair of the anti-Ellis brigade to bang on about the chairman's parsimony.
O'Leary may be interested to know that his chairman has committed him to appear on a few supporters' forums this season.
A justified criticism from the floor that the fans rarely see O'Leary address the supporters clearly stung the chairman who replied magisterially: "I'll ask David to go to the next fans' forum".
Quite right, too. Villa's poor communications skills as a club need to be addressed. In contrast to O'Leary, Steve Bruce attends around ten Blues supporters' forums a season. He's done three already this campaign.
Another point may scotch a rumour that's gathered momentum down the years. Robbie Keane was not lost to Villa for the sake of just £500,000. Ellis said he had done the deal with Wolves to sign the Irish striker for £5.5m, but the player chose instead to go to Coventry City in 1999.
I'll leave that one with the sceptics. I'm sure many of them still won't believe Ellis.
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