Chris Young: It's unlikely, but what if Sam Allardyce does stay as Sunderland boss?
Allardyce remains the overwhelming favourites with the bookmakers to become England manager for a reason. The bigger question for both Sunderland fans and Ellis Short is when he gets the job, rather than if.
Sunderland have been making informal enquiries over a successor, while putting jigsaw pieces in place for transfers, yet little concrete can be done during this state of limbo.
Not that the FA seem to care one jot about Sunderland’s ruined preparations for the new season, as they continue their box-ticking exercise.
If they want Allardyce, then get on with appointing him! There is no need to dawdle.
Supporters are growing pick-sick of the wait for clarity, and that’s putting it mildly. The calls for Sunderland to take the initiative and dispose of Allardyce’s services have grown. Weekend rumours that he was leaving by mutual consent were almost greeted as a relief.
But hold your horses everyone.
First, while this process has completely burst the bubble of optimism over Wearside from the end of last season, what has Allardyce - or Sunderland for that matter - done wrong?
Allardyce has always wanted to be England manager. As a proud countryman, why shouldn’t he? Sunderland knew that and reluctantly allowed him permission to speak with the FA.
It’s the FA who should be public enemy number one for what is now almost a week of unnecessarily dragging their heels.
But what if Allardyce IS still Sunderland manager next season?
It would be the ultimate insult from the FA if they mess Sunderland and Allardyce around for nothing, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. After all, they turned to Steve McClaren ahead of the then Bolton manager 10 years ago.
As Sunderland made crystal clear in a very public statement last week, the club still firmly sees Allardyce as a key component of the future. Short is not going to let him go without several millions in compensation at the very least.
Allardyce has been around the block so many times that he would doubtless take the disappointment in his stride, shrug his shoulders and get on with the job in hand. He’s been there before.
A rejection phone call would at least allow him to push ahead with the transfer plans that have been on ice while uncertainty has reigned.
But would the public that were lapping up every straight-talking word and every impromptu dance move just two months ago, be quite so ready to brush England’s interest under the carpet?
Football is increasingly viewed in shades of black and white (no reference to Newcastle intended!) where a hint of moving elsewhere is pounced upon as disloyalty.
In some cases, it’s justifiable - Darren Bent deserved all the pelters which came his way when he joined Aston Villa and subsequently ruined his career.
But Allardyce is simply trying to give himself a chance of fulfilling his lifetime ambition. It’s England calling, not another Premier League club trying to poach his services.
Nevertheless, the 61-year-old’s relationship with supporters might not be quite such a love-in.
There will be a lingering sense of resentment from some at Sunderland’s pre-season preparations being so disrupted, particularly if those pivotal opening games of the campaign don’t go according to plan.
Allardyce would need the backing to make two or three immediate signings in order to revive enthusiasm and consign the FA’s pursuit to background noise.
Equally, Sunderland’s players would want their own focus restoring after inevitably being caught up in the distracting circus of speculation.
Allardyce would have to compensate for two wasted weeks by immediately putting the club back on track, rather than allowing the pre-season to unravel beyond repair, as was the case 12 months ago.
Do that, and an Allardyce stay would be welcomed with open arms.
After all, it’s still the better scenario than starting yet again from scratch, regardless of the capabilities of his successor.