COS contributor Jake Harrison takes a closer look at what makes the Italian the right man to guide the Three Lions to glory.
A few bad performances really can create irrational responses. Fabio Capello steered England to a comfortable first place position in the qualification stage for the 2010 World Cup. He was hailed as the best England manager since Alf Ramsey. Now, all of a sudden, he’s a managerial wreck. England, wake up.
The World Cup has been a disappointment; there’s no doubt about it. Capello, though, cannot solely be blamed for the debacle that was the England football team. The Italian boasted a fantastic record when The FA decided to appoint him back in December 2007. After managing some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including AC Milan, Real Madrid and Juventus, the former Roma midfielder was tipped as the favourite after Steve McClaren was sacked after what truly was a shambles. At the time, names such as Jose Mourinho, Harry Redknapp and Marcelo Lippi were touted for the job, but it was Capello who eventually got the nod. And rightly so.
The 64-year-old won countless trophies before the appointment, including six Serie A titles, one La Liga title and one Champions League title. His pedigree cannot be argued against. Many will say that he is not capable of managing a national side at a big championship, which is shown by England’s disappointing performances in South Africa. The team put in extremely poor performances against USA and Algeria in the group stages, with the final blow coming against Germany in the last-16, where they capitulated into a 4-1 defeat.
The manager was under some criticism before the tournament had even began. His decision to leave English top goalscorer Darren Bent at home was always going to be the forefront of an argument. Bent, though, has never scored for England and, although he may not have had the chance as of yet, he is certainly not an international footballer. The decision to leave out Theo Walcott from the 23-man squad also created disagreement amongst fans. In my opinion, this was the right choice from Capello. Walcott had been injured for the majority of the season and, even though he played a major role in the qualification stages, the Arsenal winger never really returned to top form for his club. When going into a World Cup, you need to be on the top of your game. A decision that seems to mystify the majority of England fans is the selection of Emile Heskey. The Aston Villa forward has scored a total of seven goals in sixty-two games for England. It’s clear that he is not a goalscorer; Heskey was in South Africa to bring Wayne Rooney into the game more. Rooney was one of the biggest disappointments of the whole tournament, and Heskey barely ever won a ball, in the air or on the floor. These arguments, though, are insignificant.
In the group stages England faced USA, Algeria and Slovenia. To put that into perspective, it’s like Barcelona facing a Wigan, Portsmouth and Wolves (no disrespect). The players in the England camp should have been able to walk onto that pitch and demolish those sides without a problem. Yet, somehow, they managed two draws and 1-0 win. The problem isn’t the manager; it’s the players.
England have had a disappointing tournament which will, hopefully, show the FA that something has to change, be it less foreign players in the Premier League, more investment in youth football or less games in a season. Capello is sure to get the blame; when the team do well, the team gets the praise. When the team does badly, the manager gets blamed. That’s the way it is. But, if Capello were to be sacked, is there anyone better? The name that keeps occurring is Tottenham’s Redknapp. After taking Spurs to a fourth place finish last season, Redknapp is certainly established as one of the best managers in the English game, if not the best. It seems that a lot of England fans and critics want to see an Englishman at the helm, and so Redknapp is the man for the job.
Redknapp, though, cannot manage England. One of Harry’s greatest strengths is turning a decent team into a good team, with the help of transfer signings. When you’re England manager, this option is not available. You have a set list of players, and that is all. Another great part of Redknapp’s managerial methods is that he puts pride, passion and energy into all his players. Although this is exactly what England needed during the recent World Cup, could Redknapp really work with the England players in the short time that they have together? In club management the coaches and manager have plenty of time to work on every aspect of the game. At international level, you simply don’t have that.
The same can be said for Roy Hodgson. Although he has international experience through managing Finland, his fantastic record of turning average sides into good, hard-working teams mirrors that of Redknapp’s. That is why Liverpool’s appointment of Hodgson is a big risk as, if the Scouse side want to get back to winning trophies they need a manager that can turn a decent side into a fantastic team, as well as someone that can bring in the best players from all over the world. These two men are the best English managers available, and they are not good enough for the England manager’s job.
Mourinho could be called a number of names, but what is for sure is that he is a winner. He knows the English game after winning the Premier League and the FA Cup with Chelsea, while also winning the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan. He certainly has calibre. The Portuguese manager may be a little arrogant and disruptive, but he knows the English way of playing; he understands the passion, the love for the game. However, Jose has repeatedly said that he could only ever manage one international team, and that is his own country. Add that to the fact that Mourinho could cause some disturbance within the FA, it’s very unlikely that he will get the job.
None of this is appropriate though, as England do not need a new manager. Capello did a fantastic job during qualifying and you do not become a bad manager overnight. The 2010 World Cup will be an experience for the manager and one which, I’m sure, he will build upon greatly.
The negative side of Capello is his cost. The Italian gets £6 million pound a year. That, I’m afraid, is atrocious. What’s even worse, though, is that the blind-sighted FA offered Capello a new contract before the World Cup. Yes, before. Surely it would make more sense to offer him a new contract after the World Cup so that he can be judged correctly? £6 million a year is a lot of money, especially when not much, in terms of glory, is returned.
Sceptics would argue that the language barrier between the players and the manager played a part in the dismal World Cup campaign. Many believe that this can only create problems in the heat of the dressing room and on the training pitch. Capello’s English is actually quite good, although the media seem to present him as a babbling fool. The press question and interrogate Capello into sounding very dumb, which is certainly not the case. The language barrier does not exist. The language of football is understood by all.
Past experiences have told us that what the England team needs is a manager, not a friend. Sven Goran-Eriksson always took a back seat when it came to managing, looking to captain David Beckham for advice at various points in his tenure. McClaren was exactly the same, with more disastrous results. The current Wolfsburg manager was not strict enough with the players, something that Capello has been determined to change. The players are now not allowed their wives with them at international tournaments, they are not allowed to leave the hotel and they must go to bed at certain times. In a world where footballers earn more than £50,000 a week and have glamorous girlfriends to go with flash cars and big houses, the players need discipline and, to be perfectly honest, need to be brought back down to earth.
A sub-story that has come out of England’s departure from South Africa is the introduction of goal-line technology. Frank Lampard didn’t score at the World Cup, according to official records. The infamous goal-that-wasn’t has been shown on television screens worldwide over and over again, and it gets worse with every viewing. The ball was clearly over Manuel Neuer’s goal line; everyone in the stadium could see it, apart from the two men that really mattered. The goal could possibly have changed the game somewhat; going in 2-2 at half-time brings with it a completely different momentum than going in 2-1. The fact still remains, though, that the players weren’t good enough and didn’t deserve to stay in South Africa.
None of the players in the England squad were on top form going into the World Cup. Even Rooney, who had had a blinder of a season, had not scored a goal since he got injured against Bayern Munich back in March. Steven Gerrard had a poor season for Liverpool, while John Terry and Ashley Cole had problems off-the-field, which in-turn led to poor performances on it. Gareth Barry, who apparently keeps everything in order for England, was injured at the start of the tournament and was one of the most unstable players in the whole team. Jamie Carragher ‘graced’ us with his choice to come out of international retirement for his country to have an absolute shocker against Algeria. The Liverpool centre-back was clearly off the pace throughout the game. Carragher has now retired from international football once again. The problem with England is not the manager; it is the players. As they get paid so much for their clubs, they do don’t seem to care about their country. Give any one of those England fans that travelled to South Africa an England shirt and they’d run their hearts out. I’d bleed for my country. It seems these overpaid fools wouldn’t.
The controversies surrounding some players in this World Cup have been blown out of all proportion. John Terry simply stated that there needed to be a conversation between the England players and Capello and that got interpreted as Terry saying that the players needed to revolt against the manager. Rooney’s frustration after the Algeria game, where he said to an on-looking camera that it was ‘nice to see your own fans booing you’ was purely frustration with the England team performance and maybe even his own personal performance; even he knows that the fans had every right to boo. The media seem to be interested in the next big story, whereas they should be getting right behind the team.
Capello shouldn’t be sacked for a number of reasons. The main reason being that he is clearly the best manager we have had in a very long time. It’s now been 44 (and counting) years of hurt, and Capello is the man to change that. In four years time, if the FA sort themselves out, England will win the World Cup. And you quote me on that.
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