As search enters final furlong were the old heads overlooked?

Could the Blues have tempted Graeme Souness?
Could the Blues have tempted Graeme Souness?
Cheryl was lucky enough to sit next to 1980s pop star Sinitta, pictured here at a previous event   Picture: PA

CHERYL GIBBS: An embarrassing moment at a celebrity shindig with Sinitta

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The list is long but their wait appears to be even longer.

For some, the call to become a manager in English professional football will never come again.

Amid the rumour and counter-rumour that has been the ongoing saga of finding a new manager for Portsmouth Football Club, a procession of names have come and gone.

That search appears to be coming to an end but, remember, this is Pompey so you can never be 100-per-cent sure.

Well, not until you see the new man waving the blue scarf above his head.

Guy Whittingham and Stuart Gray have done an excellent job in keeping everything on an even keel but many are wondering exactly what has taken quite so long.

Recruiting a new manager is no easy task and cannot happen overnight – most fair-minded folk will understand that.

But more than three weeks would seem to be stretching it to the point of increasing the feeling of apathy among the fans.

Like an irritating quiz show host who drags out the moment of truth for those few seconds too long, the feeling can switch quickly from edge-of-your-seat tension and excitement to reaching for the remote.

It’s been a tricky task to keep up with the developments for anyone who has taken an interest.

Of course, the secrecy is understandable.

Pompey playing their cards close to their chest is probably a welcome move for many, in comparison with some of the previous regimes when every twist and turn was conducted in full public glare.

Amid the cloak-and-dagger movements of interviews at unknown locations and late-night meetings, bookmakers have been equally baffled.

And it takes some serious manoeuvring to keep them guessing for long periods.

The betting markets have been closed on four separate occasions with Sean O’Driscoll, Eddie Howe, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, finally, Michael Appleton attracting enough money to scare a bookie into thinking some inside knowledge is at large.

Only one of those men in O’Driscoll is currently out of a job and looking to return to management at the earliest opportunity.

But there are even more who have at one time or another been flavour of the month in the Premier League, are currently out of the game and were never mentioned as serious candidates for the Pompey job.

There are some big names on the list and perhaps that instantly ruled them out through financial demands or a belief that a better challenge will soon come calling.

As far-fetched as it would be to think that Martin O’Neill or Mark Hughes would end up as Pompey boss, was it even explored?

Finances will have played an integral part in the process – both for transfer budgets and a salary – but many will be open to negotiate if they are eager enough to return to the game.

There are others who would seem to be a better fit than O’Neill and Hughes who have effectively been forgotten as capable managers.

Dave Jones, Alan Curbishley, Steve Coppell, Trevor Francis, Avram Grant, Kevin Keegan, Steve McClaren, David O’Leary, Peter Reid, Graeme Souness, Gordon Strachan and Nigel Worthington are just some of the names on that list who have all been successful at one time or another.

Some may have tasted failure as well but should that see them thrown on the managerial scrap heap and never to be trusted again?

Many have extensive international experience, all have been in charge at clubs in the top division, some have won trophies, others have done well on a limited budget.

But all of them have managed good clubs and are now peripheral figures in the game.

Some prop up the sofas as TV pundits or offer their opinions behind radio microphones.

Others bide their time for the perfect opportunity to present itself with a budget they want to work with and the kind of ambitious club that everyone would want to manage, as the football world passes them by.

A few even try their luck overseas with the intention of broadening their knowledge.

For others, management was something they used to do and have since opted for the pipe and slippers and a comfortable armchair.

But far too many of these men in their 50s – with vast experience and knowledge – are still passionate and eager to work, yet are cast aside and written off long before their worth to the game has expired.

Many cite the argument that management is a younger man’s game these days.

Nobody told Sir Alex Ferguson that, who will turn 70 years old in December and celebrated 25 glittering years in charge at Old Trafford earlier this week.

But if an antique birth certificate is seen as a barrier these days, then Aidy Boothroyd, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Gareth Southgate and Gianfranco Zola would cater for the other end of the age spectrum among the out of work.

The club may argue that none of the jobless showed any interest in the post or were prepared to lower their financial demands.

But if you are unemployed and you are asked directly by a club if you might be interested in becoming their manager, that answer could change dramatically.

If this process does pan out with Michael Appleton – the West Brom assistant – installed as Pompey’s new manager, it would certainly be a brave move.

And a man who is highly-respected in football circles will get a chance to prove himself.

While every new manager needs results, he would need them quicker than most to help convince those who were sceptical about the appointment to give him time.

If he’s the kind of character who would relish that challenge – and by all accounts, he is – he could do well.

But he will know himself that the honeymoon period will be short.

Of course, this being Pompey, there could yet be another surprise twist in the tale and while we’re often told that the bookies don’t often get it wrong, they’ve shown that they can make mistakes over these past three weeks.

It’s no easy job when it comes to picking the right man for the job.

But can anybody ever really know if he is that right man until they can look back and make their decision with the benefit of hindsight?