After a disastrous World Cup campaign, the previously untouchable ‘Don’ Fabio is under siege like never before. The man who was hailed for bringing an iron discipline and purpose to post-McClaren England and oversaw a World Cup qualification campaign marked by a glut of goals and positive performances is now down in the trenches fighting for his very survival as England manager. Or is he?
Noises from the FA recently have been less than supportive of the beleaguered England manager. The back pages of the newspapers are currently full of talk of Capello being under pressure from FA suits to change his style and image and in particular to soften his stance with the players. The recent spate of high profile withdrawals from the squad for the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers with Bulgaria and Switzerland has raised fears that the Italian has lost the respect of the players.
The FA has done very little to dispel the speculation surrounding Capello’s future. Ironically, the very things that once made Capello the darling of the English football press and public, namely his iron discipline and strictness with the players, are now under assault, with many hacks simplistically blaming them for England’s poor performances in South Africa and seemingly non-existent morale and fight. One Italian onlooker remarked at the height of the John Terry mutiny that Capello is not used to winning people over to his methods, he’s used to winning.
Add to this Club England manager Adrian Bevington’s rather inappropriate statements last month that the next ‘England manager would be English’ and that ‘a lot of people have a very different view of Fabio Capello now to the one they had before the World Cup’, and it is hard to see the Italian being around to carry out the work he set out to do after taking over from the much derided Steve McClaren. Incidentally, McClaren’s stock is on the rise again after a successful spell in Holland with FC Twente. In the same statement, Bevington said that it “is our (the FA’s) job is to support him (Capello) as best we can.” A job which the FA, and you in particular, are doing extremely badly, Adrian.
Capello’s reign as England manager could come to an end sooner rather the later, perhaps after a couple of bad results in the upcoming qualifiers. I doubt very much that, assuming the rumours are true, Capello appreciates being told how to do his job or address his squad, and I would not be at all surprised to see him leave. After all, Capello’s methods have brought him great success at almost every club he has been at. Why should he change them now?
Getting rid of Capello now, or forcing him into a position to leave, would be foolhardy. Capello certainly made mistakes in a desperate World Cup campaign for England in which he must take a share of the blame. Theo Walcott should have gone to the World Cup. Adam Johnson, too. Shaun Wright Phillips should not have been anywhere near South Africa, other than as a paying spectator. A non match-fit Gareth Barry should have been left out for Michael Carrick. Gerrard should have played in his favoured central position behind Wayne Rooney, not out left, where he was still arguably England’s best player. Joe Hart should have played in goal in spite of his inexperience due to the error prone alternatives. There is no doubt Capello made mistakes, but then it is easy to criticise with the benefit of hindsight.
Really though, the players need to take the majority of the criticism for their listless displays in South Africa, particularly against an extremely limited Algeria side when victory would have likely provided a significantly easier route in the latter stages of the World Cup. Indeed, we might be discussing England’s semi-final heroes instead of second round chumps had we qualified as group winners, such is the fickle nature of International football.
Those praying for Capello’s demise I give you two words: Euro ‘88. Yes, Euro ‘88, the tournament remembered for Rinus Michel’s total football (version.2) and Marco Van Basten’s individual brilliance. England played three games in West Germany, losing all three. The manager? Bobby Robson, England’s most celebrated coach since Sir Alf Ramsey. You might remember two years down the line in Italy the late, great Robson led England to within a penalty shootout of the World Cup final. Now nobody is saying Capello will do the same or even better at Euro 2012. Nonetheless, Capello can learn from the mistakes of South Africa and lead England into a brighter future come Euro 2012 with the support of the FA and the fickle football public.