Arrivederci, Postman Pat

Image © The Guardian

Fabio Capello, in happer times

And just like that, he was gone. The ever-evolving story that had been building exponentially over the past few days finally came to a stunning and perhaps somewhat unexpected conclusion late yesterday afternoon, as statistically the most successful England manager in history, not to mention one of the all-time great club managers, fell immediately on his sword in ignominy and resigned from post following a blistering attack on those who employed him. The ongoing furore over the John Terry allegations has now claimed perhaps its biggest scalp as Capello left Wembley stadium with his previously impeccable reputation severely blemished by his dalliance with English football. England are managerless.

Rewind two years and no one could possibly have seen any of this coming. England had stormed through qualifying, winning every game bar the 0-1 in Ukraine when qualification was already assured. An England team in utter disarray after Steve McClaren’s lax regime had apparently been whipped into shape, showing discipline, hunger and a level of professionalism previously unseen with the national squad. Players were being played in their natural positions, often reflecting the role they already played with their club teams. Sounds simple, but anyone who had to sit through endless matches under Sven-Göran Eriksson with Emile Heskey trundling uselessly up and down the left wing would appreciate this. WAGs were off limits. Discipline was key. Capello had an aura about him that no England manager had had that I could remember.

However, it was in the run up to World Cup 2010 when things began to go a bit awry. Some very, very strange decisions, such as taking Ledley King and Jamie Carragher, the former a player that had not played consecutive games of football since 1983 and the latter one who had previously retired from international after admitting that when losing with England he was glad that it was not his club team. Theo Walcott was left at home which, while admittedly being useless 98% of the time, at least gave an option off the bench of someone who could run really fast in a straight line against a tired defence. Gareth Barry was included despite being injured. And worst of all, Rob Green continued in nets, predictably embarrassing himself in the very first match and costing England two points in the process.

Throughout the tournament itself I then remember one wrongheaded decision after another, with players being chopped and changed irregardless of form. England stumbled out of the group, putting in increasingly inept performances including the 0-0 with Algeria which is honestly the worst game of football I have ever seen. John Terry proved his loyalty to the manager by trying to organise some sort of bizarre coup against him, and finally Germany handed our arses to us on a plate and we were back home a round before our customary quarter-final exit on penalties.

I certainly wouldn’t blame Capello for everything. England’s Brave and Loyal John Terry has a massive part to play too. And I wouldn’t want to overlook the key fact that too many players played like complete and utter toss throughout the tournament. But the important thing was that Don Fabio’s aura had slipped. The English press piled in, and ever since then Capello has had, to my eyes, the air of a man who quite frankly does not give a shit about England, the players, The FA, English football, or anything other than seeing out his fat contract. He gave Jay Bothroyd an England cap for crying out loud; a sackable offence if ever I saw one.

And so, onto the events of the past week, and a somewhat bungled effort by The FA to strip John Terry of his most prized asset, his England captaincy, while still allowing him to play on despite the terrible allegations levelled against him. I personally don’t think Terry should have been allowed anywhere near the England captaincy following his behaviour in South Africa, but that’s a moot point now. The fact is that he was stripped of the captaincy for a second time, and Capello felt duly obliged to directly question his employers for undermining his authority. This from the man that was only too keen to strip Terry of his captaincy in 2010 after the news broke that he had been involved with the former footballer Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend. Interesting to note where his priorites lie.

Capello’s gripe is that Terry should be considered innocent until proven guilty, which while being an entirely appropriate sentiment, just doesn’t apply in situations such as these. Can you imagine the next six months, including all of the European Championships, with this hanging over everything? How would it work if Terry was forced to play alongside Rio Ferdinand? I work in HR, and it is standard practice for someone facing disciplinary action to be removed from the situation by suspension; it is a neutral act. Not an admission of guilt.

Had Terry also been suspended from playing for England however it’s hard to argue that the situation would be any different. Capello felt undermined, threw his toys out the pram via the Italian press, and was duly summoned to Wembley to explain his actions, leaving with his P45. Supposedly his last ever job has ended in ignominy.

I have to be honest and say I am glad to see the back of him. It had become deeply apparent that he had lost all interest in the job since the South Africa disaster, going through the motions and blaming everyone but himself when things went wrong. The qualification for Euro 2012 was painful viewing at times as we staggered out of our relatively easy group. Capello wasn’t going to quit; he wanted to be paid off. £6 million a year is rather a lot of cash unless you hadn’t noticed. Reluctantly, I had accepted that he would be there for the Euros and who knows, maybe he would have learned from the World Cup and would have taken a young, vibrant squad, selecting players that were in form and play them in their correct positions. We will never know.

As a Tottenham fan the timing of Capello’s departure couldn’t be worse. Mr. Henry James “Harry” Redknapp, fresh from being acquitted of charges of cheating the public revenue, is now the favourite for the post, and his claim that the England job was “impossible to turn down” may very well now be tested to the extreme. I hope if the worst does happen then he at least stays with us until the end of the season. While I have always had reservations about his character I cannot deny the incredible job he has done for my club. We have gone from laughing stock to one of the best teams in the country in a little over three years, and were it all to end prematurely then I would be pretty bloody sad about it. Sadly, the mistakes made by John Terry, Fabio Capello and to a lesser degree the FA this past few weeks have ensured this is now a very distinct possibility.

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