No pressure, Jack Wilshere. No pressure…
England coach Fabio Capello has indicated that he expects boos at Wembley Stadium tomorrrow for the international friendly between England and Hungary, and apologised for the team’s poor showing at the World Cup.
However, I’m not sure he should have apologised.
Bar a couple of names, Capello has been managing nearly the same players that his two predecessors did – English players that have continuously underperformed in major tournaments. Although many bemoan that he played both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the same team, they have clearly forgotten that the two played admirably together in the same team in qualification. Capello is using the best players available to him, and if they are not good enough on the biggest stage, that is not necessarily his fault.
Why anyone seems to think England have a divine right to win anything is a mystery. The country is thought of as the “birthplace” of football, and has a competitive league, but its players are limited technically at international level.
Still, given England’s qualification form, people had higher expectations. Before the World Cup, Capello’s enormous salary was barely an issue, but the England manager’s post is consistently the highest paid national team job. Once the players failed to perform in South Africa though, all the media could talk about was his cheek in accepting the salary offered to him.
Capello certainly deserves criticism for some of England’s underwhelming World Cup – playing the outdated 4-4-2 for example – but much of it was out of his control.
When I watched the first match against the USA, I was disappointed by Robert Green’s error, but I never felt that England were going to lose the game. They actually played rather well, and had many chances to win the game. The biggest of these fell to Emile Heskey (probably England’s best player against the Americans), but the Aston Villa striker is not a lethal finisher and Tim Howard saved comfortably.
Capello couldn’t do anything about the relentless schedule that exhausted his players. Consecutive England managers’ cries for a winter break have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. It was not his fault that Rooney suddenly lost the ability to control a football, that Rio Ferdinand was injured or that John Terry and Gareth Barry would fail to defend space as they have done well so often in the past.
After the USA game, the press were keen to jump on the England team’s backs, and the performances from players afterwards was noticeably affected by the criticism. Today players seem to think of being selected by the England team as a burden – not an honour.
Young players come up through the ranks and think once they can acquire themselves some ridiculous bling medallions / pimped up car / wag to roast in a Portaloo, they have made it as a professional footballer and in life. Guys like Wes Brown and Paul Robinson should have phoned Capello instead of embarrassing him publicly – it’s common courtesy, and common sense – but they have somehow emerged with scant criticism. Brown may have told Capello in person, but it was too late for Capello was already made to look foolish in the media, but at least he said it was so young kids might break through. Robinson effectively said unless he could be first choice he wouldn’t play – which sounds remarkably like the reaction of a spoilt child. Isn’t being available for your country to turn to when required something to take pride in?
Capello clearly has a lot of rebuilding to do for the Euro 2012 campaign, but if young players like Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs are immediately exposed to a culture of booing fans then they will begin to resent playing for the national team from the off. Is venting frustration at the senior players worth that price?