Another Fine Mess

So, Fabio Capello has resigned as England boss, just four months before England take to the pitches in Ukraine for the Group stages of Euro 2012 and the national side is managerless, fantastic! The appointment of Capello was met with more than a few raised eyebrows at the time, many questioned the logic of another non-Englishman taking over the biggest post in English football.  Others questioned the knowledge of Capello, undoubtedly a very successful coach on the continent, about the specifics of English football, the style, the players, the press, for example. Still more questioned the idea of hiring a man with an inability to speak English for the position of England manager. The F.A however, in their infinite wisdom, were sure they had their man, and stuck firmly to their guns, after Scolari had turned them down of course, even offering Capello an eye-watering £6 million per year as a salary.

Three and a half years, and approximately £21 million later, where are England now? Capello was brought in to finally bring tournament glory to what many pundits referred to as a “Golden Generation” of English players. Sven had had limited success, consistently reaching the quarter final stages of major tournaments, before being sent packing. McClaren’s failure to get England to Euro 2008 was a disaster, his appointment, another “brilliant” move by the F.A., led to him becoming the shortest serving England boss of all time. So we moved quickly along to Capello, who succeeded in his first task of getting England to South Africa for World Cup 2010. Once qualification was assured however, the wheels began to fall off; disharmony in the camp surfaced surrounding John Terry’s off the field shenanigans, Capello picked an ageing squad, was unsure who to play in key positions such as goalkeeper and central midfield, and, was unsure of what system would best suit his team.

Once in South Africa, there were problems with the England base, which had been specifically chosen by Capello in conjunction with the F.A.. Set out in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle, many players complained that the camp was too isolated and boring, and that they were unable to feel part of the World Cup going on around them. On the pitch things started badly and got steadily worse for Capello and England. Starting the competition with a 1-1 draw against the U.S.A., after an awful gaffe by goalkeeper Rob Green (from which his international career never recovered), England proceeded to draw 0-0 with Algeria, and only qualified for the knock-out stages by virtue of scraping a 1-0 win over Slovenia. England were in disarray, Capello was at a loss for how to fix things, and this showed quite obviously when England faced Germany in round two. Sticking with the old guard, Capello deployed a diamond system in midfield with Steven Gerrard, again, totally wasted on the left. The results, a totally incoherent performance and England were thumped 1-4.

For a man brought in to improve England’s tournament record, and work towards major honours, Capello had failed miserably, his lack of in depth knowledge of the English game, English players and his inability to communicate with his team effectively, all seemed to be very evident during the World Cup. Time to let the man go and build towards the next tournament you might think, but no, not the F.A.; as they had rewarded Capello, pre-tournament, with a contract extension, taking him up to Euro 2012, sacking him after England’s abject showing would have cost them too much. Some excellent work again by the F.A., I’m sure you’ll agree.

So to Euro 2012 and a new look England, but how to create that? Capello’s unfamiliarity with young English players was again evident, as he practically relied on the football press to inform him of young talent that may have been of interest to him in terms of building an England team for the next major tournament. Qualification for Poland & Ukraine was achieved fairly easily, but that was to be expected given the relative weakness of the other teams in England’s group. Many different players have been given a chance to play during the past two years, and some of the younger players had played themselves into contention for a place in the Euro squad. Capello finally seemed to be getting a grip on the job, and the players new and old, finally seemed to be working with and for him. That can be seen by the performances and results over the last year, both competitively and in friendlies. Now however, because of the F.A.s inability to handle themselves professionally and sensibly, the England team has been thrown back into chaos.

John Terry has been stripped of the England Captaincy because of the ongoing court case against him for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. The F.A. say that he’s been stripped of the Captaincy because he may cause disharmony within the camp; fairly likely given that Anton’s brother, Rio, is Terry’s centre-back partner, and he supports his brother 100 per cent on this issue. Fabio Capello has resigned because he disagreed with the decision, but much more so, because he was totally undermined by how the decision was taken and announced, that is, on a unilateral basis by the F.A., with no consultation with the England boss. This whole thing might never have been a such major problem, had the F.A. done their job correctly and  taken responsibility in the first place, charged John Terry and treated him in the same way that they did Luis Suarez. They failed however to take the matter seriously, in many people’s view because he was England Captain, deciding that there was no case to answer. Unfortunately for the F.A. and John Terry, a spectator had captured the alleged slur on camera and made a formal complaint to the police, resulting in Terry being charged.  Had the F.A dealt with the matter in the way that they should have, in the way that they have with other players, notably not English, John Terry, guilty or not, would either have served his ban or been exonerated by now.

The legal system being as it is however, the hearing has been postponed until after the Euros, no doubt the real reason for this is to ensure as much of a media blackout as possible on the issue in the run up to the competition. However, the problem this posed for the F.A. was that the allegations were, and still are, very much hanging over their Captain, he’s neither served a punishment, nor been found innocent. What a mess the F.A. had created for themselves, so what to do? The sensible, dare I say it, obvious thing to have done, would have been to call both the player, John Terry, and the manager, Fabio Capello, to the F.A., have a meeting, and explain that as these allegations are still in the public eye, and as they are very serious allegations, they feel that it would be prudent for Terry to relinquish the Captain’s armband for the time being at least. After some huffing and puffing, this would doubtless have been agreed upon; then, they could have had a joint press release outlining the decision and the reasons for it in a coherent and unified manner.

Instead, the F.A. has, once again, acted in a magnificently crass, unprofessional manner. The style in which they blurted out their unilateral decision to strip Terry of the Captaincy, without even discussing the matter with Capello or Terry, or even having the courtesy to give the England boss prior warning of the decision, a decision which he disagreed with for footballing reasons, undermined his position as England boss so completely, that he was left with no real choice, but to resign.

Now England are stuck, four months before a tournament trying to come up with a short-list of candidates to take the job on. They must now begin a frantic search, with no time to spare, for somebody new to come in, probably with new ideas, assemble a squad, get the players backing, and that of the press, and try to deliver success in the Euros; instead of having Capello take them through, finishing his project, allowing the F.A. to take their time to find, and appoint, the right man, before the World Cup qualifiers begin. Who will take charge? Stuart Pearce has taken temporary control, but the press, ironically enough, are already bringing up allegations of a racist remark he made during his playing days; Harry Redknapp is the favourite, but now is absolutely not a good time for the Spurs manager to take on the England job, and it’s very unlikely that doing both jobs part-time would be an option; or do the F.A. upset England fans by appointing another foreigner? Guus Hiddink perhaps, or, will there be a caretaker until after the Euros with a permanent appointment to follow? Whoever they appoint, the F.A. must do it in a hurry, because one thing’s certain, this is another fine mess they’ve gotten themselves and England into.

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