Sam Allardyce was keeping a low profile as the Football Association prepared to name him as the new England boss, with current employers Sunderland fuming.
The 61-year-old was in the dugout for the Black Cats’ 3-0 friendly victory at Hartlepool on Wednesday night, hours after it emerged that he is to be appointed as Roy Hodgson’s successor on Thursday.
However, he did not return to the touchline after half-time and is understood to have left Victoria Park at around 9pm, in the process both avoiding questions from journalists and passing up the opportunity of a farewell with the 3,859 travelling fans inside the stadium.
The club released a statement minutes after the final whistle insisting Allardyce remained their manager and reiterating their “anger and frustration” at the process which has led to his impending departure. They have been left in no man’s land, according to Daniel Storey.
It read: “Naturally we are aware of the intense media speculation this evening. However at the present time, Sam Allardyce remains our manager.
“We share in the anger and frustration of our supporters and would like to assure them that we are working to conclude the matter in the best interests of Sunderland AFC.”
It is understood Allardyce will be confirmed as the new England manager in the next 24 hours with the FA’s board due to meet on Thursday to receive the recommendations of the three-man panel – comprising chief executive Martin Glenn, vice-chairman David Gill and technical director Dan Ashworth – charged with the task of identifying the best man for the job.
The former Bolton, Blackburn and West Ham boss has made no secret of his desire to take charge of his country, having lost out to Steve McClaren 10 years ago, and he has been the bookmakers’ favourite ever since it emerged that he had spoken to the FA last week.
Hull counterpart Steve Bruce has since had his own informal interview, while Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe and United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann are also understood to have been on the shortlist.
However, it is Allardyce who appears to best fit the FA’s remit, which will extend further than just the senior England team.
Earlier in the day, Glenn told Sky Sports News: “We’re not after a short-term mercenary, someone just to do the job for a couple of years.
“I want someone to come in to the England role to really work with not just the senior team, but to make sure all the great work with the under-16s, 17s, 18s – look at how well the under-19s are doing now – and to knit all that together.
“We want someone to do a great job for the England national team, but as well make sure all the development teams are laddering up to something more effective.”
Part of the process will also involve ensuring players at the highest level reproduce their club form when they pull on the England shirt – something which has not always been the case at recent tournaments.
Glenn said in a separate interview with BBC Sport: “The new manager has got to be someone who can inspire people to get the best out of themselves, build resilience and unashamedly adopt the kind of psychological techniques that other sports and other football teams have done, to really inspire people that when they put their England jersey on they play as well for England as they do for their club.”
If England have got their man, Allardyce’s exit will leave Sunderland looking for a ninth permanent manager in less than eight years just when they thought they had established a firm foundation following last season’s successful Premier League safety drive.
They do not want to lose a man who has a year to run on his contract, and have been less than impressed with a supposedly secret pursuit which has been conducted all too publicly for their liking over an extended period.
However, Glenn said: “Is three weeks a long period of time? If we’d have done a knee-jerk and done it in three days, we’d have been rightly accused of knee-jerking.
“We’re taking an appropriate amount of time. Of course we’re concerned about how individual clubs manage, etc. We aren’t blind to that, we just need to make the right decision.”
Former Everton and Real Sociedad boss David Moyes has emerged as an early favourite to replace Allardyce, with Burnley’s Sean Dyche also a man who is admired at the Stadium of Light.