Capello not cheating England fans
If Fabio Capello thrives on the aggravation that is part of the England coach's package, he must spend most of his life in a state of ecstasy.
The Italian moved seamlessly from one bone of contention to another when, having decided John Terry would be restored as permanent England captain, he announced mass changes for Tuesday's friendly against Ghana at Wembley.
And it was inevitable he would do so.
Yet his decision to release Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, Tottenham defender Michael Dawson and the Chelsea trio of Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole from the squad to face Ghana drew renewed criticism of his methods.
It is sometimes easier to criticise Capello than to defend him in the current climate but a measure of context and perspective should be applied to this latest local difficulty.
There is no doubt that, by playing football's politics, Capello puts himself in danger of setting a dangerous precedent. But will those inside Wembley on Tuesday really shed too many tears for absent friends?
Lampard, Cole, Terry and Rooney have all felt Wembley's discontent at various stages during their England career, while Dawson's guaranteed presence, with all due respect to a fine defender, would not have assured too many extra on the gate.
Of course, Capello and the Football Association could have headed off any potential criticism at the pass by declaring that England would field an under-strength team. But the vagaries of form and injury make that an unrealistic prospect unless they had formally made the match a "B" international.
Capello is undoubtedly attempting to maintain cordial relations with Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, who have Champions League quarter-finals next week.
There is a danger, though. And a big one. It does not come from supporters, however, but from other Premier League clubs. The part of Capello's calculation that carries risk is if, say, Aston Villa duo Ashley Young and Darren Bent, West Ham United's Scott Parker or Arsenal's Jack Wilshere pick up an injury against Ghana.
And what if Wolves winger Matt Jarvis makes his debut and is injured? Will Capello get a typically blunt retort from Mick McCarthy, who has already seen international duty claim pivotal Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle?
Such a reaction would be understandable as Wolves, not to mention Villa and West Ham, would have grounds for accusing Capello of ranking the Champions League ahead of Premier League survival.
Capello's rationale was clear when he said: "It is dangerous for players to play too many games in a really short time and this is why I decided the players who played against Wales and have games next midweek could go.
"I still have Tottenham players here but they didn't play. The players here will play three games in eight days and not four games in 10 days."
In other words, those Champions League games were central to his reasoning, although such reasoning will not spare him should an injury strike on Tuesday.
It will be an England side with an experimental look for the game against World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana, so some supporters may be disappointed, but it is dangerous to suggest Capello has somehow pulled the wool over their eyes by releasing players. This was always going to be a line-up with an unfamiliar feel.
There is still plenty of intrigue to unpick from those on show, however, and the bigger danger for Capello may yet come from Premier League clubs not involved in the Champions League rather than any disgruntled supporters at Wembley.
Capello was keen to refute suggestions that he had somehow misled fans by making so many changes, although it was interesting to note that he had cut his planned number of alterations from 11 on Saturday evening to seven by Monday lunchtime.
"I respect England's fans but it will be interesting for the fans to see some players they know very well and some they don't know very well," he said. "The players that play will be really good players. It will be interesting for me and for the fans."
And he is right.
Liverpool's Andy Carroll starts, so it will be fascinating to see if it is in the 4-3-3 formation that worked so well against Wales. After the success at the Millennium Stadium, the formula should be tried again - and how Carroll fares will be a pointer to its possible future use.
In some respects, the system will be as interesting as the personnel on show after Capello shed his beloved 4-4-2 in favour of the fluidity and pace that wrapped up victory against Wales in 14 minutes.
While Capello, who has chosen Gareth Barry to lead the side in Terry's absence, was in the mood to tackle thorny subjects, he stood firmly alongside England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce in his desire to have Arsenal youngster Wilshere and Liverpool's Carroll in the squad for the European Under-21 Championship campaign in Denmark in June.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Liverpool counterpart Kenny Dalglish are likely to want the pair to rest but Capello was not taking a backward step as he said: "Of course, I will support Stuart 100% if he wants to take them. I think those two players will be really important for the under-21s. They can make the difference."
As for his "failure" to remind Rooney that he was on one yellow card before his rash hack at Wales midfielder Joe Ledley brought a second and a suspension for the qualifier against Switzerland, well, this was a simple sum that Rooney should have been able to work out for himself. This was folly on the player's part not the coach.
There is still the potential for more aggravation should fate strike blows at Capello on Tuesday. He has made misjudgements in recent weeks but the temptation to hit out at every move he makes must be avoided.