Fabio Capello’s decision to resign, and the FA’s decision to let him, is baffling on a number of levels. Four years of planning, preparation and development has been frittered away over a dispute in which the FA acted rashly, and Capello made valid, if indiscreet, criticisms.
On another level, it makes perfect sense, as Capello and the English public found themselves failing to gel throughout his reign.
Capello is renowned as one of the world’s best managers, in an elite group which includes Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola, Sir Alex Ferguson and the like. After successive failures in the FA’s hiring policy culminated in England missing out on Euro 2008, Capello was signed with much fanfare.
The feeling was that as nice as it was having an Englishman like Steve McClaren managing the national team again, making the group stage of major competitions would be even nicer. They had responded to the Euro calamity by signing one of the absolute cream. Think Wayne Bennett signing at Newcastle – this was a big capture.
Of course the press were mixed because they always are. Foreigners in the English game are always treated with a little suspicion, especially when they’re coaching the national team. But you could sense there was some bargaining going on: we’ll have a foreigner if that’s what it takes to win another World Cup.
Trouble is; the World Cup was a fiasco. From the minute Robert Green fumbled Clint Dempsey’s dribbling effort, the rot was evident. The John Terry issue was poorly handled, with Wayne Bridge was allowed to pull out because he was the lesser player.
Terry had committed the wrong, yet was allowed to represent his country while Bridge stayed home. Then he was stripped of the captaincy, and replaced by the ever-brittle Rio Ferdinand, whose injury in training was freakish, but also showed the gamble Capello had taken.
Terry should have stayed home, but if management insisted he come, he should have remained captain. Either his sins should have counted in football terms, or they shouldn’t have. The eventual result hesitated halfway in between.
The divisions in the dressing room which surely existed were a result of the lack of firm leadership from either party. Too often a player’s misdeeds are measured against his ability or value to the team.
So Wayne Rooney was out of sorts, Terry created tension, Ferdinand was injured and Emile Heskey was in the side, all of which added up to a disaster. The promise of the breezy road to qualification disappeared as quick as you could say “That’s an ambitious effort from Dempsey.”
But the Euro 2012 qualifiers looked fairly breezy too, so hopes were again high. Terry had even been reinstated as captain. Of course there was the Rooney drama; there always is when a major tournament rolls around. But then there was another Terry clanger: the racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand.
Now, keep in mind Anton happens to be the brother of Rio, the former England captain and first choice centre-half partner for Terry. Terry’s court case was postponed until after the European Championships, so the FA needed to make a decision on him with their own reasoning and assessment.
That’s where the trouble started with Capello. The FA decided to axe Terry again as captain. Capello went on Italian TV livid because he wasn’t consulted, and it was all on. Now, he’s gone and resigned, and England need to pull someone out of the ether to manage them at Euro in a few months with only a few warm-up games.
Somehow it always felt like Capello’s association with England would end in tears. It just never seemed a good match. In speaking out, Capello does not seem to be condoning racism, but merely condemning the FA’s kangaroo court deeming Terry guilty before the proper court had the chance.
The whole tale raises plenty of issues around England’s football culture. However it also obscures the fact that on the whole, Capello had not been successful when it counted. He had the chance to remedy that in Poland and Ukraine, but instead he has been claimed by political machinations and his own firm convictions.
Finally, those who blame John Terry for all of this will remember the famous proverb, ‘Never trust a man with two first names.’ I suspect those same people will be squirming in their chairs at the prospect of Steven Gerrard taking over as captain.