Football and opinions are inseparable, as this piece will show. Some observers will probably feel it a little early to be belting out a muscular song questioning Fabio Capello’s managership of England. But
Jeremy Robson– a man of many strong opinions – is not singing from their hymn sheet, and he’s certainly not singing a Capello …
Fabio Capello is a very experienced and highly regarded football manager.
Well, he was to most observers, at least until last Saturday. Great, or even just good club managers often find it difficult to make an effective transition to international management. None of the above apply to Capello’s predecessor, Steve MacLaren, who was a moderately capable manager elevated to a position that completely transcended his abilities or judgement.
Capello has spent his entire career managing clubs. Excellent clubs with a pretty admirable record, it has to be said. He arrived in international management the wrong side of his 60th birthday.
There are a lot of other older guys coaching at the World Cup, but most of them had gained some experience on the international stage well ahead of touching distance of their bus pass. I’ll make no bones about this: Capello seems to be struggling and struggling badly.
Leave the second top English goalscorer behind has become a focal point of criticism levelled at Capello, poor selection of goalkeepers and apparent indecision about who will be the number 1 is another.
Selecting injured players or recovering players such as Barry, King, Ferdinand etc is one more. Let’s take each of these in turn.
Darren Bent was scarcely given the opportunity to shine. Limited time on the pitch with just enough time to fail and insufficient time to succeed. The arguments about Heskey’s inclusion have been talked to death, but his presence is simply a microcosm of Capello’s narrowness of thinking.
Despite a successful qualifying campaign which featured some high quality performances and excellent results, Capello has approached the World Cup finals like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an approaching truck. He creates the impression of being driven by panic.
The players that got England to South Africa had been good enough to qualify in some style, but then panic set in. He was denied an ageing Beckham through injury, though some observers might consider his absence a godsend as he looked past his sell by date four years ago. So Capello reached out to the likes of Carragher and Scholes asking them to reconsider their retirement from international football.
You would think that Capello had been asked to select a squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany or even for the previous tournament in South Korea/Japan. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear later that David Seaman had received a call from Capello to ask if he’d booked his summer holiday yet.
The most bizarre inclusion is arguably that of Ledley King who was thrust into the firing line against the USA after Rio Ferdinand’s latest injury set back. Even further reliance on yesterday’s men. Are we so desperately short of decent centre halves that we need to rely of a man with a pair of crippled knees, who hasn’t been able to train since Peters and Chivers retired?
Capello was clearly worrying increasingly as the tournament approached. In his panic, he resorted to what he felt was a policy that reduced risk. This has shown to be his greatest error of judgment so far.
Deprived of first choice players in the middle of the park, Bobby Robson discovered his best XI by accident during the 1986 World Cup. By trying to opt for a safety first approach, Capello has unwittingly taken the greatest risk of his career.
I very much doubt if Fabio Capello is reading this, but my advice would have been to be bold from here on in. Sadly for him, he has denied himself the opportunity to be bold through his squad selections.
There isn’t what you might call an “impact player” in the squad who could be called up to shake things up when you most desperately need it. Darren Bent might have had that effect, Gabriel Agbonlahor, or Carlton Cole if fit. Joe Cole comes the closest to fitting that particular bill, but he was left on the bench as Lennon and the lamentable Wright-Phillips pointlessly tore down the flanks with a delivery that troubled only the ball boys.
International management requires the coach to work with the best that you’ve got. Capello hasn’t even worked out what his best is. The rigour, logistics and restrictions of international tournaments seem to be taking their toll on Capello. His selection of both Milner (ill all week) and the permanently creaking King for the game with the USA was a catastrophic error of judgement which limited his options to invoke Plan B if required.
It’s not clear whether he has put players at his disposal who could sufficiently alter a game when it is drifing away from him. Most importantly he doesn’t seem to have considered all scenarios. He couldn’t sadly consult Sir Bobby Robson for his counsel on how to prepare an England team, Graham Taylor isn’t worth asking and Steve MacLaren`s best advice would probably have been to pack an umbrella.
There’s not a lot for Fabio to fall back on, just like his squad.