PETER HOUSTON was last night considering his options after being given permission to speak to Blackpool about the managerial vacancy at Bloomfield Road.
The manager of Dundee United, whose current deal expires at the end of the season, emerged on Saturday as a surprise candidate to replace Michael Appleton and could be appointed sooner rather than later with the English club eager to make a quick appointment.
Karl Oyston, the Blackpool chairman, is understood to want a new man in place as soon as possible and Houston has emerged as his favoured candidate after first Sean O'Driscoll, who has instead replaced Derek McInnes at Bristol City, then Bradford City's Phil Parkinson chose not to entertain approaches.
"We want to get someone who we can work with and who can take us in the right direction," Oyston said. "We are conscious the transfer window is open, with less than three weeks left. Whoever comes in will need to trade players, both in and out. We need to give them the best opportunity to do that."
Houston, who first became aware of the interest when he was contacted by Steven Thompson, the United chairman, late on Sunday evening, reported for training as usual at St Andrews yesterday but has been afforded permission to begin negotiations.
"It's unexpected," Houston admitted last night. "I haven't applied for any jobs, but it's a huge compliment that people are even asking. Whether it happens or not, it means that your name is being mentioned and that people are recognising the job you're doing.
"There's five months left on my contract and we were still in negotiations over a new contract for me and my backroom staff. What [Thompson] has stated is that he has to make further cutbacks in staff costs. Before the contact from Blackpool he did say that he didn't want to hold me back from bettering myself and, if he thinks that, I'm grateful to him for allowing me to speak to them."
While undoubtedly true, United's willingness is also a consequence of Houston's contract situation. The 54-year-old, who has been in his post since replacing Craig Levein in December 2009, is out of contract in the summer and would have to accept a substantial salary cut were he to extend his tenure. That is unlikely, while the burden of compensation leaves United in something of a stasis until the summer, but this latest development appears an ideal resolution for all parties, with the Clydesdale Bank Premier League club also eligible for recompense to cover the final few months of Houston's current contract.
That said, it is understood that Appleton earned less at Blackpool than Houston did at Tannadice, meaning that the former Scotland assistant may be required to take a wage drop anyway should he wish to take on the challenge of restoring the Lancashire club's Barclays Premier League status.