( AFP ) - Steve McClaren has been assured that there will be no move to sack him as England coach before the final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia next week, even if his side already know they have no chance of reaching the finals.
England will only have something to play for at Wembley if Russia fail to beat Israel on Saturday or Croatia lose in Macedonia.
Given that Israel have nothing left to play for and Croatia have been, by some way, the strongest side in the group, neither outcome looks very likely and McClaren has already begun a campaign to cling on to his job in the event of England missing out on a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
The former Middlesbrough boss claimed last week that has received the backing of senior figures in the Football Association who, he claims, have been impressed with the way England's performances have improved this year.
It remains to be seen if McClaren can survive what will inevitably be a bloody inquest should England miss out, but the signs are that the FA will not rush into a quick decision on his future.
McClaren is currently due to travel to Durban for the qualifying draw for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on November 23 but the 12-man FA Board, which will decide his fate, is not due to meet until the following week.
All that could change however if England are given a hostile reception by fans who bought tickets for the Croatia match in anticipation of their side being involved in a fight for a ticket to Austria and Switzerland rather than what could be a dead match. England will be in Austria on Friday for a friendly clash with the Euro 2008 joint hosts and McClaren will be hoping that the build-up to that match will be marked by a strong show of support for his leadership from the players.
Everton's Phil Neville is among those who believe England have nothing to gain from sacking McClaren, although he is not necessarily representative of the squad having worked closely with the coach when he served as number two to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
"I would not wish the England manager's job on anyone," Neville said. "It is a no-win situation.
"If you get a victory, the players get the plaudits. If you lose the manager gets slaughtered. Something has to be done as it is not a nice pressure to be working under.
"Two years ago Steve McClaren was the best man for the job for me. People were calling for an English coach and we got the best one. Even if we do not qualify he is still the best man for the job."
Neville believes continuity is vital if England are to grow as a football nation.
"Stability is the best recipe for success," said the 30-year-old. "It means sticking by the manager. Arsenal have done it, Manchester United have done it and so have Everton."
McClaren can justifiably say that England were unfortunate to lose to Russia in Moscow last month when a victory would have put them in the finals.
But he knows that draws at home to Israel and away to Macedonia have been as damaging to their chances and he knows he could be forced to answer for those setbacks.