ONDON, Apr 29 (Reuters) British newspapers reacted with a mixture of astonishment and criticism today after Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari turned down the England job.
'FA humiliated after Scolari turns his back on England,' said the back page today's edition of The Times while The Daily Telegraph said simply: 'Another Fine Mess'.
The Guardian weighed in with, 'Chaos reigns over England job as Scolari says thanks but no thanks' and The Sun focused on the candidates with 'SOS. Sam, O'Neill, Steve all back in running'.
''Big Phil Scolari's challengers for the England job were last night told: You're back in the frame lads,'' the paper said, referring to Sam Allardyce, Martin O'Neil and Steve McClaren.
Another tabloid, The Daily Express, commented: ''Even in the long history of embarrassing debacles involving the Football Association, the appalling farce of the hunt for a new England manager has set new standards of ineptitude.'' Newspapers also reported that Scolari's decision to withdraw as a candidate to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson was influenced by death threats from Portuguese football fans upset that he was talking to the FA before this year's World Cup.
''...there was a sinister edge in the Brazilian's claims that threats to Fabricio, his 14-year-old son, were behind his u-turn,'' wrote The Times.
The Telegraph said: ''That (death threats) is likely to provide a more realistic explanation for his amazing u-turn.'' ''Whatever the truth of threats against Felipe Luiz Scolari's family, the Football Association should have known they were dealing with 'a loose cannon', as he was depicted in headline yesterday,'' added the Telegraph comment page.
''The FA's chief executive (Brian Barwick) deserves scolding for not doing his homework.'' HUMILIATING FARCE The Guardian called it a farce. ''The humiliation is devastating for the Football Association. It had been assumed that the flight to Lisbon by the chief executive Brian Barwick on Wednesday meant that an agreement existed in principle.
''Only the humiliation of the FA is indisputable. Never before has the body been spurned in such a way and the competence of everyone involved is open to the deepest of doubts.'' The Times added: ''Having been given the opportunity to become the first South American to coach England, he (Scolari) has almost certainly ensured that Sven-Goran Eriksson's replacement will be home-grown should the FA ever find one.'' The sort of media intrusion that persuaded World Cup-winning former Brazil coach Scolari that the England manager's job was not for him was clearly illustrated on The Sun's front page.
'My Secret Affair' screamed the headline today as the paper revealed that Middlesbrough manager McClaren, now back among the front-runners for the post, had a relationship with a secretary during a trial separation from his wife.
Inside the paper quotes 44-year-old McClaren as saying in a statement: ''I was separated from my wife a year ago and had a three-month affair. It ended at the end of August last year and I went back to my wife in September.
''I want to clear this up. I feel this is a private matter but in view of speculation about the England job, I felt I had to clarify the situation.'' REUTERS PM VC0930