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Capello feeling the heat

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Phil McNulty | 15:42 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

Fabio Capello's managerial reputation has been forged in the hothouses of AC Milan and Real Madrid - but even that has not protected him from the unique pressures that accompany coaching England.

And as an occasionally prickly Capello faced the media in Watford ahead of England's opening Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria at Wembley on Friday and Switzerland in Basel on Tuesday, it was clear defining moments of the Italian's tenure are approaching.

Secure victories in both games and some of the scars inflicted by England's embarrassing World Cup failure in South Africa can start to heal; lose even one and the groundswell of opinion that Capello is a spent force will gather greater, possibly even unstoppable, momentum.

Capello summed it up succinctly with the words: "When you win, you're the best. When you lose, you're the worst" - although it is clear he does not subscribe to the theory himself.

England boss Fabio Capello at training

Capello's air of authority has been damaged by England's World Cup failure. Photo: PA

Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup.

It was almost like watching the suit of armour fall like scales from a previously unbeaten gladiator to see Capello's flaws exposed in Bloemfontein. It was the culmination of the loss of a previously sure touch, flaws in judgement and selection that arrived in a flood in the weeks leading up to England's depature for South Africa.

The road to redemption can start with good results against Bulgaria and Switzerland. The road out of England may come for Capello with defeat.

Capello is now under intense scrutiny, something he is well aware of and something he will use his experiences in the San Siro and the Bernabeu as a shield against. And even as a supporter of Capello, I believe it is correct he comes under the microscope, such was the scale of England's underachievement in South Africa.

As a man who sat in front of the media in South Africa and said "the result is everything", he will be well aware he can right plenty of wrongs with six points in the next five days.

Capello has still not recovered all of his previous poise since England started their rehabilitation after the trauma of South Africa. Word is little has changed in his approach to preparation on the pitch, although there are suggestions there is a lighter touch to his demeanour with players away from training, and there is no sign of the new young generation infiltrating England's squad en masse - although he cannot be blamed entirely for that.

And, of course, he botched the David Beckham question badly. At first writing him off as a going England concern, before offering him a free final cap as a sop before insisting the door was still open. A mess.

Capello's mistake was even getting involved. Beckham, ageing and injured, is a supreme irrelevance to England's current plight. He is a non-issue.

The other stick Capello is currently being beaten with is the lack of young faces in England's squad, but at least he has warmly embraced Theo Walcott's rejuvenation at Arsenal and the rapid development of Manchester City's exciting Adam Johnson.

Jack Wilshere has been touted as one of those who should be at the centre of England's new era, but even Arsene Wenger would be hard pushed to make a case for his inclusion in the senior side.

Is Newcastle United's Andy Carroll an England striker? The argument that he is better than Carlton Cole has some merit, but surely it is too soon for him.

And as for the much-touted and undoubtedly very promising Jack Rodwell, Everton manager David Moyes saw fit to do without his services in the opening two games of the season - so maybe Capello is not so ignorant after all.

Yes, there are areas where I would question Capello. The current squad has an imbalance of too many wide men and one who should not be involved is Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has proved conclusively on many occasions that he is not a winger to rely on at elite level - with Johnson the preferred choice even at club level.

And the claims of Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone easily outweigh those of Manchester United's Michael Carrick, but these are judgement calls from Capello and the man who gets the results wins all arguments.

Of course Capello made mistakes before, during and after the World Cup. He hinted at regrets about his hard-driving approach to the build-up when he admitted to the BBC that the players should have rested for a fortnight before South Africa.

But there are still very few coaches out there with the record boasted by Capello, so the FA will desperately hope he rediscovers his golden touch and takes some of the heat out of this volatile situation with two wins.

The spectre of the suddenly available Martin O'Neill following his abrupt departure from Aston Villa will no doubt lurch into view should England stumble in these next two games, but Capello's outstanding CV still holds good. It is one which suggests he should not be dismissed as some sort of dud on the strength of a few bad months.

Is there anyone out there who is a guaranteed upgrade on Capello given England's current resources? The names do not exactly roll off the tongue.

It is hard to believe Capello is simply killing time as England coach while waiting for his reign to meander to a close. He has too much pride for that, and too much to prove.

And even if, as plenty believe, he is still only in a job because it was too expensive to pay him off and there was no obvious alternative at the end of the World Cup, is having a coach of Capello's experience at the helm such a bad thing? Not if you listen to the passionate backing from captain Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry.

As Capello stated, these games will not be simple steps on England's path to recovery. Bulgaria's recent record does not hint at them delivering a fatal blow to Capello's England, but they have gifted players despite the retirement of Dimitar Berbatov, with Aston Villa's Stilyan Petrov and his namesake Martin from Bolton Wanderers well known to their opponents.

And in Basel on Tuesday, Capello will come up against "The General" Ottmar Hitzfeld, a veteran coach with a reputation that sits more than comfortably alongside his own after masterminding victory over eventual winners Spain in the World Cup and twice claiming the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

So for Capello, days of destiny await - but the body language of this naturally combative Italian suggests he is ready for his latest fight.

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  • Comment number 1.

    excellent article Phil.
    i still, and have even since the world cup, think that Capello is the right man for the job. we should give him time to rebuild now and make his own England side and not just fiddle about with the players the former management had already ruined. give him these euros to build his own squad, let him learn from the mistakes of SA and see what happened in Brazil.

  • Comment number 2.

    Cracking blog, if you look at the record of some big international sides in 2010 (France, Italy) then Capello's record stands pretty highly.

    Obviously he got it wrong at the worst possible point but that doesn't mean he won't get it right eventually, we forget the World Cup is a freak competition and no amount of experience in other competitions can compare you but his class will shine through. I remember when Man United struggled to get out of the group stages of the Champions League for a few years until Fergie knew how to handle it.......

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil- Capello knows what is expected, he also knows that to leave the England job, without being able to restore some of his personal reputation, would be the end of any lingering aspirations he may have of continuing with a career in international football management.
    I therefore fully expect we will see the best of him, this time perhaps he will 'stick to his guns' or at least he will not be making statements, which seem to last all of 5 minutes, before he does an about turn! Personally I hope he learns which players he can trust and those he cannot - this aspect of man management let him down badly in SA and there are no more chances!

  • Comment number 4.

    The rise and fall of Capello is a media driven drama. I see we have your permission to like him again if we take 6 points, thanks Phil!

    The players of other top, top countries are better basically is my take. FC is just a puppet who can't speak english once the whistle blows!

  • Comment number 5.

    Great Article Phil,
    It is time to start appreciating certain talents that certain England players have and to play them in a formation that suits them. I couldn't believe it when Paul Scholes was put on the left at Euro 2004, he clearly wasn't a left mid and his play was limited. this happened again at the WC with Gerrard and the 442, whether diamond or flat midfield seems to be dying out. Huddlestone, Rodwell, Hart, Walcott et al, these players have the potential to shine in Brazil they just need the chance to get some International caps under them.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have just the one criticism of this article.

    "Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup."

    ...and the narrow victory over Slovenia that meant England failed to top their group, the draw against Algeria that put them in a must-win position in the first place, the draw against the USA that got things off on the wrong foot, the team selections that favoured unfit or out-of-form players over fit and in-form ones, the formation that none of the other big teams adopted and that was completely exposed at its first real examination, the way he treated Stuart Pearce, and so on...

    Let's not pretend that the rest of the World Cup did wonders for his reputation. Also, more recently, it's been damaged by the way he announced Beckham's international retirement (and now seems to have gone back on that), the lack of communication displayed by calling up players who then retired themselves, the lack of enthusiasm he showed in England's friendly against Hungary, etc. I could go on, but I think you get the point. He's got a long way to go to restore his reputation, although I'm personally glad he's still in the job.

  • Comment number 7.

    "a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths"

    I'm sorry, but if you and your ilk didn't try to make your careers based on exactly this, then we might have a stable England management for once.

    What an enormous hypocrite you are.

  • Comment number 8.

    "the 442, whether diamond or flat midfield seems to be dying out"

    Seems to be?

    Are you having a laugh?

  • Comment number 9.

    Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany
    "Not unreasonable defence"? I think he and you are clutching at straws! All 4 performances by England were poor. Capello had ample opportunity to change things after the Algeria game. Instead, he chose to stick with the same formula and failed. You'd expect more from a manager on a reported £5M a year!

  • Comment number 10.

    Phil, very disappointed in this blog.
    His reputation taken to the depths by one bad performance?
    Where were you? Did you not watch us against the USA, the Slovenes and particularly Algeria (the worst England performance I have ever seen)? Fabio didn't understand England at a tournament and he should have done his homework. The trouble started with squad selection and Austria. I'm in two minds...he's stubborn but he's not stupid...can he adapt in two years? Is he bothered enough? If he'd followed his own rules he would have taken Johnson, Walcott and Hart would have been No.1...can he learn that? Take in-form, take young, take fearless, have a formation, not just best 11 players...don't pick them cos they're good for Chelsea, Man Utd...and Phil, Germany didn't show us anything we didn't already know...
    How can we improve? As well as above, in the next contract, we will only pay 10% more than any other international manager... Come on England! And come off it Phil...(D-)

  • Comment number 11.

    Carson being ruled out is the best news we've had in ages regarding withdrawals.

    Why we still persist with 'tried and tested' players who've already proven they are failures is beyond me?

    As if the disappointment and total failure of the world cup wasn't clear enough, Capello continues to stick to this failed team selection strategy (and most likely also his tactics).

    Thus, how can we expect to improve using exactly the same resources. Are only hope is the opposition just gets weaker. Admitting failure already, how grand. First Sven, now Sven part deux. Awesome.

  • Comment number 12.

    Excellent blog Phil, however, poster 6 has a very good point. Besides where would your rank England in the world, I would put us anywhere from 10th-15th.

  • Comment number 13.

    What most people seem to ignore is the fact that international record in the current climate should consist of matches against the top 16 sides, because, outside of those teams, the level is as ordinary as it has ever been. Bringing up your winning average by beating the no-hopers of the Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia etc is not going to convince anyone that England can challenge the major teams in South America and Europe.

    England is the club equivalent of Liverpool (boring and predictable, easy to defend against and only effective against small sides that don't defend) and has been for some time. The style of play is so similar and there is a similar awkwardness where the top players rarely perform against anyone barring the small teams who don't sit back and defend. England's record under Capello against the top teams is pretty dire, so please no one say that he has done great things. He has taken us no further than Sven did - only difference being that when Sven started failing it was against the minnows as well and not just the top sides - a bit like at this last world cup for mr capello.

    I think we must admit defeat and forget this coach but get back to basics. Let's get England playing as the players can, not as manager's want. If we don't have players that would ever play for a Serie A team then why do we have coaches that employ those type tactics. The last 10 years has been proof that against top teams this just doesn't work.

  • Comment number 14.

    Same old tosh phil

    One day you are on one side of the argument, the next you are on the other talking down at those who haven't yet changed sides.

    The fact is even if we win all the qualifiing games, in some style, we still won't have solved the problem that our players choke on the big stage.

    Remember that's what happened last time, great qualifiying, poor tournemant.

    Anything less than 100% in qualifiying will be seen by the media as proof England are getting worse under Capello. 100% will be seen as "so what does that prove, nothing"

    You are all a bunch of hypocrits!

  • Comment number 15.

    i thought the comment about wright-phillips was bang on. I have no idea how he continues to make the team. it just shows how lacking our squad is. he has been pants for the last 5 years. he had one fluke season at man city and everyone was fooled. i'd sooner have a 40 year old ian wright in the team, rather than give-the-ball-away wright-phllips. seriously, the ball is too big for him. he's like a kid trying to dribble with a beach ball.

  • Comment number 16.

    Phil, I know that Capello is taking plenty of stick for the failure in South Africa, but what happens if he fails again and is sacked? England have had 3 top coaches in the last few years i.e Eriksson, Mclaren, and now Capello. To dismiss the three as not having a clue in football management will just not cut it. If it takes the England job to discredit their three combined CVs then England, maybe, is unmanagable. No surprise SAF said that job is a curse, and Wenger said 'I am not the England manager, luckily..'. Looks like all top managers already know England is unmanagable..
    The FA says they want an English manager, so Martin O'neil is out of the running. I just wonder who will put their hand up for this job, get it, and then get fed to the dogs!

  • Comment number 17.

    Good blog Phil.

    I'm absolutely certain that Capello does not subscribe to the theory of 'you win you're the best, you lose you're the worst.'

    Only idiots that write for the ragtag tabloids and those stupid enough to think they print only facts subscribe to that theory.

    Personally I still have faith. All these calls for Redknapp to take over are insane. And Redknapp isnt stupid. He has a good thing going at Spurs. Why would he want to swap that for the impossible job? Also Redknapps record as a coach is laughable in comparsion with Capello.

    Personally I hope England win tomorrow, and win well. Just to see the reaction, backtracking and excuse making all his recent detractors (who for the record thought he was the bee knees pre world cup) will have to make.

  • Comment number 18.

    Very good article. I have always been a supporter of Capello, since one look at his CV tells you how capable he is. I agree he needs to step away from making statements about individual players, especially in the case of David Beckham, who really isnt the future of England.

    Actually I think Becks should have accepted the offer of a farewell cap, since he deserves a big official send-off for all his contributions to the team. That said, Capello needs to look forward to the team that might turn out in the Euro 12 tournament.

    The defence is far from settled. Rio would walk into it if he could even walk, Terry would be a choice if the game was only played at walking speed. Dawson (and a Spurs supporter here) needs to do well in these next qualifiers. Jagielka is probably next in line, as Upson has returned to "bring him on if you have to" status.

    The midfield is actually in better shape than it has been for a while. Lampard dropping out means that Gerrard can go into the advanced central role, with Barry behind him, and Johnson and Walcott on the wings. I would personally still take Lennon over Walcott, but I accept there may be some club bias ther.

    Up front: oh dear. The first choice player is of course Rooney, despite his dire world cup. Defoe or Crouch should be alongside him, however both have major injury issues. Although Andy Carroll has very little top level experience, he is a big lump of a centre forward and has more punch than Heskey ever did, so really he might have been worth a shot. I assume the spot will go to Carlton Cole, who really hasnt got much of a CV to support him claim.

    By the way, Joe Hart is a shoe-in for the keeper spot, so I wont debate it at all. Also Cole and Johnson are sure calls for the full back spots.

  • Comment number 19.

    This piece and recent press coverage condemns Cappello, but forgets the players let us down badly.The FA should have sacked Cappello and replaced him with Rednapp, with the remit he bloods the youngsters and forgets the golden generation,they should ignore euro 2012 (take a step back to move forward) and look towards the 2014 world cup. we have never done anything radical no wonder it is 40 + years since we have won anything.but with the old school tie in charge nothing will change.

  • Comment number 20.

    For England to gain credibility a good showing at a major championships is required. Everytime a major finals come round, if they qualify we are told how good Englands players are. All the adverts featuring Rooney, Gerrard, Terry, Lampard etc are done in which they feature alongside the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, the media hype up the PL and the players and then........FAILURE!!
    The failure this time was so great (humped by biggest rivals under 24 side) that no amount of hype or good qualifying results is going to cut the mustard. Everybody now knows English footballers are not very good, it was suspected they were not very good after failing to qualify for the Euro's and failing so many times before but at the World Cup it was confirmed. The golden generation are not very golden. Blaming the foreign manager doesn't work anymore. These guys look good when surrounded by the best foreign talent money can buy but when they are left to their own devices they are not good, they are in fact terrible. Sven couldn't help them, Cappello can't, a combination of 'the special one', Sir Alex, Rafa and Wenger couldn't help them. They are not very good, simple as that.

  • Comment number 21.

    great blog..great links (12 of them)...

    why cant england decide? after the wc every1 was crying for drastic overhaul and the same time every1 wants immediate success..the FA should have decided if it was gonna go long term or not..explain their decision to capello and let the two come up with a plan that is not just centred on euro 2012 but that will cater for at least the next wc..and if that is the case, then there will be results that will not be pain no if it is that there is some overhaul in the process then ppl should just give the plan a chance to work..

    the younger defenders will have to be slowly integrated into the team, new midfielders will have to be grafted too and the still elusive strike partner(s) have to be found for rooney..this new PL rule will unearth more english players but give it time..and with a long term plan (provided there is one), 2 + 2 might very well yield 4..

    lampard, gerard, barry, terry, rio, cole, and carrick are on their last lap but at present there arent players ready to fill those places at moments let's just wait..if eng qualify for euro 2012 by the skin of their teeth but slowly integrating the new generation, then england fans should have enoguh common sense to accept that rather than an aged big name squad romping to ukraine only to be creaking and out of gas when they get there..

    so u all..just wait..stop pronouncing over cap's head...if he cant deliver he will be shown the assured he will..u can always count on being fired in football..

  • Comment number 22.

    Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

    England manager: "Terry, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, ..."

    If England win without the first two of those on the teamsheet, will they be automatically back in next time around?

  • Comment number 23.

    Well this is the first ever time I've posted a comment on any forum but I'm incensed and feel it's about time especially in relation to the sorry excuse for a national football team we have - no manners, no respect, out of touch with reality where they believe they are above the 'rules' and the rest of us. I definately won't watch another England game, that's me done, and I'l also be making sure my son gets the message as well.

    As if it wasn't confirmed at the world cup (if not before) that the majority of these players are detached from reality and are completely out of tune with the nation and their audience. EXAMPLE - I played golf at The Grove in Watford yesterday and the England team (all usual suspects) were also 'playing'. All of them were playing in their training kit (now I'm an ordinary Joe and not big on ridiculous golf etiquette but come on - why one rule for them?!!) They (Crouch)drove a buggy over the edge of our green as we were putting out! To top it off we had the pro join us on a par 3 for a 'beat the pro' challenge and with no party behind us for 2 holes he made our party of 4 to 5 for the one hole - the Marshall drove straight up to our party and said the FA have made a complaint that we were playing in a 5!!! (fair enough, this is against the rules) but hang on shorts/loud rule for one....

  • Comment number 24.

    Capello really puzzles me. How a manager of his experience and track record could end up sending out a team with Gerrard playing on the left wing is just beyond me.

    When Houllier's Liverpool beat his Roma in the Uefa Cup Capello commented afterwards that the difference between the two sides was Heskey. Roma couldn't deal with his Drogba-eque power on that night, the only time I can remember Heskey having an absolutely storming game for Liverpool. Surely he never thought that he could coax performances of that standard from Heskey on a regular basis?

  • Comment number 25.

    At times I enjoy reading this blog, your writing flows despite the odd repetition (touted). But, like Capello, you fail to stick your neck on the line, for want of a more accurate description.

    I've always respected Capello and falsely believed he had the nous to adapt to international football following the qualifiers but I was proved wrong. Capello's errors have continued (Beckham, Arteta, etc). He refuses to take those crucial risks, and sadly, so does the our chief writer.

    Let me do it for you. Risk Rodwell, embed Adam Johnson into the side, merge Wilshere, Carroll, even Cattermole - get them in now, forget the 'not ready' business, permit them experience . Be bold, make mistakes and learn from them. Rule players out that haven't made the grade.

    Carson was brought in due to a severe lack of goalkeepers but he will never make the grade, yet Loach replaces him who may one day fulfill potential. Why was Loach not brought in initially?

    I agree on SWP, Carrick, dispose of them, chuck out Rio, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Upson, Green for good. As they say in the pool, start again, this time with youth, without Beckham who is too old. Stand by your convictions, do or die - revolution England.

  • Comment number 26.

    Why is Capello getting the blame-the players are over rated, pampered and spoilt . Its they who can't gel, can't play they have become to cossetted. Lets get them out!

  • Comment number 27.

    Capello was not criticised 'on the basis of one single admittedly crushing defeat against Germany'. England were dreadful throughout the group stage (have you forgotten Algeria, Phil?) and disturbingly incoherent in the warm-up friendlies. Even in qualification, England looked disjointed as a team but cruised through because of their overwhelming individual superiority. It was obvious they would be torn apart by any well organised side of similar ability.

    My heart sunk the moment he was given the job because everything that followed was entirely predictable. It is extraordinary how easily so many people have fallen for the FA/Capello line that 'the players were to blame' - The FA's decision to appoint and retain Capello cannot possibly have been wrong - 'Capello cannot have become a bad manger overnight' - 'Look at his track record' - 'the players bottled it' - 'the players lacked passion' - 'the players only care about money' - 'Isn't it time we realised English players simply aren't good enough' - 'they lack technique' -'all managers fail with England' - 'We've tried English managers and it didn't work' - 'we need a root and branch restructuring of the English game' - 'Capello is still the right man for the job' 'who else is there?' - all the reliable old cliches wheeled out one after another to make sure that that those responsible for the debacle escape censure.

    I can't see us losing to Bulgaria so no doubt the pro-Capello zombies will believe Capello has 'recovered his golden touch' and the farce will continue.

    In the meantime, to reassure and reaffirm the sanity of those whose pulses are not racing at the thought that this 'naturally combative Italian ... is ready for his latest fight', here's Jose Mourinho on... Fabio Capello

    "He has a one-track relationship with players. Ask anyone here at Real Madrid. He can't change. You cannot go around just shouting at players. They need to feel special."

    And here's Mourinho on... England
    "For me, it is a mess for England. Players need clear tactics. They cannot be confused about what they have to do. It is the manager’s fault. And it is a big shame."

    But hey! What does he know?

  • Comment number 28.

    Qualifiers mean nothing.

    Friendlies mean nothing.

    Its what you do in the tournament that counts. If Capello and England vastly improve by performing well at the Euro finals - i.e. at least a semi final place - then I will greet it with hope.

    Otherwise I will still think England are 'hopeless' (picking a word from Shearer there). The 4-1 defeat to Germany says so much about our game and it'll take years for us to improve from grass roots upwards.

    The fact that Capello is still using names from the failed 'golden generation' in qualifying as opposed to fielding a young team for them to gel, says it all. Hopeless.

    Sorry, but while I love England because its my home, my confidence in the team died that sunny afternoon in late June. It'd take a hell of a performance in the FINALS to win me over again. I don't even rate the Euros, only the world cup, so I guess my wait will be a very long one.

  • Comment number 29.

    England will win both games comfortably and play with a much better balance. Why? Because one of Lampard and Gerrard won't play, in this case Lampard as he is injured. This means we can have players in their correct positions, with either 5 in midfield or 2 up front.
    The games that England play well are the games where only one plays, 5-1 in croatia (Lampard bossed the game).
    The sad fact is that when both are fit Capello will try to squeeze them both in and they'll end up getting in each other's way.

  • Comment number 30.

    "And here's Mourinho on... England
    "For me, it is a mess for England. Players need clear tactics. They cannot be confused about what they have to do. It is the manager’s fault. And it is a big shame.

    But hey! What does he know?"

    Yeah your right, what does Mourinho know? He's obviously managed England before hasn't he? The all-knowing God of Football that is the Special One?

    Until he's actually done the job, him, you and me are in no position to give our 2 pence worth. At least Capello has had the courage to take the job on and make a go of it.

    I agree with No 28, Qualifiers and Friendlies do not mean jack to me. It's all about the Euro and World Cup. But the counter to that is if we don't put in the performance during the Qualifiers, there is no Euro/World Cup. As per 2008.

    Simple fact is, our players are not good enough and Capello can only do so much with the players he's given. This is helped by the Premier League that stick to their tried and trusted teams. So they are reluctant to try new home-grown talent in games that matter.

    And Capello will stick with the "Golden Generation' by getting a few easy wins which will then get the media of his back. Only then he will start to experiment with younger players.

    I agree with other comments as well regarding Capello as Manager. I was disappointed with the way the England Team performed during the World Cup. But let's face it, what better Manager is there to replace Capello?

    Sad answer is, no-one. So how about we get behind Capello and make the best of what we've got.

  • Comment number 31.

    To fabulousRedsReds...I agree with you about the changing of coaches. Steven Gerrard was at pains today to defend Capello and point out that the players should take responsibility.

    I admit Capello made mistakes in the lead up to, and during, the World Cup, but I am still a supporter of his and ask the question again, who would be a guarantee of better things?

    England have one of the most decorated coaches in European football - although I must admit if he lost one of these two qualifiers then he would be under huge personal pressure.

    As I said in the blog though, you simply cannot write him off on the strength of a bad few months.

    Keep these excellent posts coming...some very good points for and against Capello's regime.

  • Comment number 32.

    The coach is not the problem. You can't make omelets without eggs. However good a cook is you need omelets to make eggs. There are no eggs in England to make omelets. That's the major problem not the coach.

  • Comment number 33.

    "Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup."

    England were completely shocking for 7 games in a row beginning with the 3 friendlies in the run up to South Africa, at a point where they should have been at their best. That is why Capello has lost his credibility.

    His "big" selection choices backfired; Milner, SWP, King, Green all totally flopping. He failed to address the rather huge problem of who could deputise for a not-fit Gareth Barry. Dropping a clearly terrible out-of-sorts Rooney was out of the question in his eyes. One of only two "form" attacking players was given about 3 minutes and the Lampard/Gerrard debate will continue until they are both past it.

    The current squad is not akin to the Dream Team we sent to S.A. only a few months ago. If these players are good enough for Euro qualifiers why not for the WC?

    The players were very poor, but i've seen teams change coach and become a lot better, and a lot worse.

  • Comment number 34.

    I agree about your comments on Wright Phillips, if he gets a place, so should I.
    I sympathise with Capello because he took over when we were at rock bottom and his A no1 job was to qualify for the world cup with what was in essence an aging group of players which I might add went particularly well, however by the time we reached the world cup the rest of the world had moved on and then and only then did it become apparent that we were
    well short of the mark, had he picked any young players and failed the fallout would have been far greater. But the sympathy runs out from here, I,ll judge him on what happens from here on in. Poland is a great place for England to showcase any talents they may have as I believe we will be greatly favoured by the geopolitics of this tournament, however any more howlers like omitting Walcott and my patience will ware thin.

  • Comment number 35.

    Oneill is overrated, almost every Villa fan has accepted this for around a year to six months, but the media are still on his bandwagon. As shown by some of the reactions to his depature in national media.

  • Comment number 36.

    "Qualifliers mean nothing"

    Don't you have to Qualify to win the world cup?


  • Comment number 37.

    "Steven Gerrard was at pains today to defend Capello and point out that the players should take responsibility."

    To some extent they should. I think he should take a huge amount of stick not only for his performances but the negative influence that he and senior England players had during the world cup. Both he and John Terry showed on and off the pitch the lack of team spirit which is so devastating at international level - Terry played without positional discipline showing how he didn't believe in the manager's cause, while Gerrard and others rallied around Joe Cole to be included amongst other things. Putting the fact that players like Gerrard have so commonly underperformed for club and country to one side, isn't the fact that the player's attitudes simply weren't upto scratch and haven't been for some while the single most substantial reason for the team's failure.

    Every week there is some story about a footballer who simply doesn't respect the rules outside of football - if it isn't an assault in the street, it's employing hookers. The list is endless for current 'stars'. Until it isn't that they don't have everything, until it is that they genuinely have to earn something or that their desire is greater for football than money, then I believe we will never have a team of world champions. It is the hunger, belief, desire and discipline that has made Jose Mourinho's teams so great in recent years, not the players, because individually they don't add up to be good enough.

    Whatever manager we have, we need our players to be showing those attributes and when it matters.

  • Comment number 38.

    I haven't read through most of the postings here.. but to suggest Capello needs to regain credibility is akin to saying that England is awash with TOP CLASS footballers and Fabio can't make them gel ala Spain, Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil..
    England players ARE pants and Capello can only elevate them as high as their talents allow.

    Lower your expectations of the quality of the Three Lions and there will be les heartbreaks.

  • Comment number 39.

    Phil in the in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Thats a back handed compliment of sorts as you have half worked out the problem unlike to a man and woman most of your so called expert peers.
    The problem is and always will be the 'Golden Generation' as has been proved for 8 years. Bin Lampard, Terry, Rio, Gerrard (I know you don't like me saying it), Barry, Joe Cole, Beckham now. These are has beens or nevergonnabes at international level. Think Graham Hick - most of them flat pitch bullies.
    As long as this horrid clique exists England will do no good. Pragmatically keep Cashley and Rooney (who must first prove his form and fitness).
    This is what happened in 1993 with France - out went the undropables - Cantona, Ginola, Boli, Papin et al when they failed for the 2nd or 3rd time - not 4th or 5th.
    In came younger and hungrier players and most of them turned out to better. They did pretty well with a new batch over the next dozen years I'm sure youd agree.

    Capello, McLaren, Sven - doesn't matter. Smash this clique of over hyped, over rated, under performing, talk a good game but never deliver when it matters. Give the youngsters ago they can no do worse than not qualify (as per 2007)

  • Comment number 40.

    ''taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup''

    I wish that was the only thing that has bought Capellos reputation into question but up to and over the world cup there has been a succession of errors that has bought about this questioning.

    In the build up to the world cup there was a manager claiming he would only bring fit and in form players, that soon went out the window, the biggest being Barry who was injured and looked way below par when he finally made it onto the pitch. The inclusion of players who had proven time and time again their inadequacy in an england shirt.

    The performance of England in the build up to the world cup certainly the friendlies was way below par.

    The list goes on and on but for me the biggest mistakes was the formation, his stubborness to stick to a rigid 442 which seemed to strangle the players on the pitch, despite the fact that many of the players play a much more flexible 451/433 formation for the clubs as well as many of the most recent successful sides.

    I dont think Capello will change, I dont think he has what it takes now to manage at international football and turn a team with potential into one that can at least challenge things. Hope he proves me wrong but just can see it.

  • Comment number 41.

    Why does everyone go on about Capello's outstanding CV?

    Before he became England Manager what was his experience of being a manager of a national team ? - Nil, None, a novice, and it showed at the world Cup.

    Yes he had worked with some of the best players in the world at the biggest clubs in Europe - Clubs who could go out and buy players to fit in with his ethos.

    What was his experience of managing a limited squad of players, and having to get the best of what was available ? again Nil, None a novice.

    He has the CV of a great club manager, but not the manager of a national team - and as we have seen there is a great difference.

    And if he had any sense of duty or honour as a manager or as a man, he would have tendered his resignation after the Germany game.

    The FA with all their buffoonery have alot to answer to.

  • Comment number 42.

    This blog only goes to show that you, like most England fans are as easily pleased as you are disappointed. Winning these two games will mean nothing, except to help England qualify, any more than the qualifying games proved to mean in the WC.
    This is still a cobbled together team of old failures, with a few new names added and the team that actually plays in the main tournament may not have half of them in it. Whether that team proves to be better or worse, we'll only know when the main tournament gets under way.
    Anyone who had their eyes even half open had to have realised, that the team Capello took to the WC didn't have a prayer.
    For all English fans sake, open those eyes, when it comes to predicting the European championship.

  • Comment number 43.

    Its time for Capello to prove his worth.
    Not a great start with all the injuries suddenly rearing their heads, how unhappy was that camp?
    Then the squad, Upson, SWP surely tainted goods by now. No Huddlestone, Lennon, scotty Parker what did those boys do to upset him??
    He needs to come up with a BALANCED team, with tactics to match, all the talk of the 4 4 2 he allegedly sent out just don't wash, no pattern, no shape, players being pulled all over the place or just wandering showing no discipline. It was no 4 4 2 I ever played in.
    Again he will start with injured and out of form players, no lampard to trip over gerrard but will the team choke as hard as they did in the world cup?
    With a limited strike force and the chance of Upson playing, hate to be negative but (with gambling in the news :-) ) the draw at 9/2 or heavens forbid an away at 12/1 look great value.

  • Comment number 44.

    To those who who criticize Capello: have you forgotten the N. Ireland game? Or the last game at the old Wembley? Or Croatia? The way England performed in SA is not worse than that, and the qualifiers were in fact better. Therefore the problem is not him.

    As for Mourinho criticizing him, we all know about his ego, he is just stirring trouble. He hasn't trained any England players for more than two years, how would he know?

    I suspect the issue is that England players are thick as planks, it takes them years to learn the one thing they do at their club, and that's all they can handle. When asked to do something else with the national team they are clueless.

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil, thanks for this interesting piece. Remember when Alf Ramsey took over and many were skeptical of his formation (Alf's Wingless Wonders), but credibility was won by good results. Capello has a much tougher assignment now, after all the dreadful disappointments (poor selections, poor efforts, poor results) in South Africa. Personally, I don't think he can come back from that, as he doesn't have the skill-set and communications ability, and he is not the man for the job (regardless of his previous club experience & success).

    Our World Cup shambles of 2010 leaves me disillusioned and disinterested. I doubt I will even be watching, as England are a hard team to watch. Many more changes are needed, from top to bottom.

  • Comment number 46.

    Excellently written as always, but I'm not sure on the content.

    Again, this is largely not really about football. You seem to, sadly, skirt around the issues quite a bit - not even touching on, for example, your view on how England can improve tactically to allow us that barnstorming attacking approach we saw glimpses of against the Germans while perhaps tempering it with a more solid defence against the counter.

    I'm also frankly amazed at this:

    "Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup."

    I don't think people are questioning Capello because of the defeat to the Germans. They played fairly magnificently against us, and we certainly did manage to stick it to them - our undoing in fact was the selection of Upson, who was absolutely bleedin' awful.

    I think far more important are the woeful performances in the group stage; if we had performed better and topped the group, we would've avoided the Germans anyway.

    I also disagree with some of the flak against Carrick lately. Yes, his form at the tail end of last season was far from magnificent, but I feel it's unfair to lump him - and several other players - in with those in the World Cup squad who actually played, and played poorly.

    It is well worth dragging out that old-but-true adage: form is temporary, but class is permanent. I would quite frankly rather see Carrick in midfield than Barry, who from what I've seen - apart from some excellent performances when his run in the England side began and some glimpses of his actual ability - has mostly a tendency to kick people and play out of position.

  • Comment number 47.

    'Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights ..... has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single..... defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup.'

    What? You cannot be serious. I think the Algeria game did far more damage. A more incompetent and passionless performance from an England team is extremely difficult to recall. This was preceded by some very mediocre showings too.

    But hey, I don't think Capello has the proper tools for the job either.

  • Comment number 48.

    Fair comments in this blog - unusual in the recent media who seem determined to oust Capello. Capello really has little to win from these two games; successfully negotiate the two games and everyone will say that the calibre of England should and anything less will be a 'National disgrace'. However, Capello does not help himself by picking average players such as Carlton Cole, Upson, Wright-Phillips and Carrick. People may say he has little choice and our strike force is threadbare yet some of these players never perform at this level and I cannot see them suddenly doing so.

    Hopefully we can build without too much expectation, yet the FA and media live off hype so this is unlikely.

  • Comment number 49.

    I truly struggle with Cappello when prior to the WC he announced his minimum target was reaching the final. He said this when he knew the quality, or the lack thereof, of players available to him and the strength of the opposing teams. He over stated the reality of the English team and sourly under delivered. For that reason he should have been long gone, but we all know unless he falls on his own sword he’ll hang in there, and why wouldn’t he? He’s being paid enough to run a small country.
    You know with 44 years worth of failure (excluding that incredible night when Gazza cried, but even then, with tears, we still lost) it makes the achievement of the 66’ team- and support staff - so much more fantastic. Honour that great result properly by erecting a statue of Sir Alf Ramsy at Wembley, then find an English (or at least a UK) coach whose mother tongue is English and as such understands our idiosyncrasies. Good players don’t become bad over night and watching Rooney’s frustration during the Germany match showed the manager hadn’t connected with the lad and indeed with the rest of the team. A great manager is one who gets the best out of the players he has at his disposal .... and that part was/is missing - so don’t expect much to change!

  • Comment number 50.

    With this Beckham debacle, I'm swiftly coming to the conclusion that Capello is a clown.

  • Comment number 51.

    i still firmly bilieve cappello is the ight manfo the job i would like to see hime feathers in the team for the underperformers like ashley cole who just have a big name but havnt shown that they can play well

  • Comment number 52.

    C'mon Phil,

    Give us a blog on the real problems with English football. We all know its not the manager at fault.

    There are so many problems, are they just a bit too provocative?

  • Comment number 53.

    'personally, I don't rate the euros'

    Well you're very silly then because it is now generally accepted that they are of a higher standard than the World Cup- with only 16 teams taking part, the big sides meet more often and there aren't as many weak sides from Africa and Asia there to just make up the numbers.

  • Comment number 54.

    The blog makes good points but in fairness why change anything about qualifiers? We were so hyped up because we breezed past them with minimal effort for the World Cup. I will judge whether Capello has learned anything when the Euro 2012 tournament is in full effect.

  • Comment number 55.

    Crikey, where are the good sports hacks? Not at Auntie Beeb obviously! One bad performance indeed! Yes, of course England were superb in their group games!! Laughable commentary really but I think you'll find that save for a few thousand Londoners, nobody is really interested in England anymore! Club comes first. We are tired of overpaid, overhyped prima donna's who can't cut the mustard on the world stage! People like McNulty rely on us believing this myth that these players are somehow great when clearly, every available evidence suggests otherwise! Don't buy into this rubbish!

    Beckham is irrelevant but so is Capello! Its not him on the pitch looking outclassed by Algeria! They are a joke!

  • Comment number 56.

    My dog could play better than Wright-Philips. And I don't even have a dog.

    Capello is surely the only person in the country (other than SWP's relatives, and some of those would demur) who would pick SWP. It's not only his judgement that is questionable, it's his total refusal to admit that he makes mistakes.

  • Comment number 57.

    After my rearlier post, it occured to me that I might have been harsh about Capello. So in the interests of balance, let me add this. I retired this year, so was able to watch every game live from the World Cup, and with the time difference in Toronto, at very convenient times I watched every game and saw every goal. France and Italy (although fancied by some) didn't make it out of the 32 group stage, so they did much worse than England, but that was something mildly amusing to an Englishman and a Canadian. Some tried to tell me that England did better, eliminated at the round of 16 stage, but I don't buy that, as so much more was expected. Also I didn't mention any England players by name, as to mention one would have been unfair to the others. IMHO they were all Poor or Very Poor or Abysmal. Also I didn't mention any England administrators by name, as they should all be ashamed.

  • Comment number 58.

    Even we Yanks, supposedly naive in such matters, come to the conclusion a year or two ago that Beckham is an irrelevant fraud (LA has done far better without him than in the rare matches he's actually played). So if he's irrelevant in a third tier league like MLS, how exactly can he be considered fodder for England?

  • Comment number 59.

    Post 20. by arab87, is an excellent summary of the England teams World Cup failure. I'm sorry to say Phil your blog fails to get anywhere near the heart of the problem.

    Do you really understand what it means to England fans to be humiliated by Germany in a World Cup match and to watch our national team capitulate to a 4-1 defeat following three clueless displays?

    Victories in all of the Euro qualifiers will come nowhere near to atoning for these performances as the pain is very deep, these qualifying matches are almost irrelevant.

  • Comment number 60.

    If you accept that Capello is a great manager and trot out the old adage that 'manager's don't become bad manager's overnight' then you must look to Capello's relationship with the players as the root cause of all the problems as if he has a sound tactical mind, then why is it the players seem incapable of implementing his game plan? Even he stated during the World Cup that he didn't know why the team fell apart; that's a worrying sign.

    I harbour doubts about Capello's man-management as an international manager. He hasn't picked up the language, remains too reliant on Franco Baldini and despite his reputation as a sergeant-major type, his aloof style means that he is not best equipped to control the egos of certain players.

    One thing that continues to bother me is that Capello seems to pick people just to make up the numbers. He can't seriously believe that Carlton Cole and Michael Carrick will come off the bench and change a match can he?

    So far this season they've done nothing, so if they do indeed play a blinder (if they get the chance), this isn't down to his skill as a manager but luck, blind luck as they've never performed in an England shirt. Their selection is not based on anything other than habit. At least if he picked Andy Carroll instead of Carlton Cole that could be considered a calculated risk. Sure he 'may not be ready' etc. but at least he is using the squad to maximise the talent available rather than employ professional bench warmers.

    If Carroll doesn't perform well, it doesn't mean that his England career is over by default it just means that he does indeed need more time. Even so, surely it's better to find out his readiness sooner (when he is in form) rather than later.

    Carrick over Tom Huddlestone doesn't make any sense either.

    Jack Wilshere is another matter as, pre-incident, he hadn't set the world alight in his performances for Arsenal and you would think that (for good or for ill) Milner, Gerrard and Gareth Barry have the central midfield positions sewn up.

    What could be a real blessing in disguise (or just plain blessing, depending on your opinion) is the absence of both Frank Lampard and John Terry. Although Lampard has largely been played out of England games by Steven 'Taking the Game by the Scruff of the Neck' Gerrard's tactical indiscipline, it is undeniable that he has failed to assert himself and deliver a good performance for England in a long while. Without Lampard, perhaps Milner could play centrally and fulfil the role of a deeper lying playmaker type, perhaps shoot from distance and maybe hit the target, unlike Lampard.

    The absence of John Terry solves one of Capello's self-manufactured headaches. He should never have been given the captaincy in the first place (obviously my opinion), but taking it away just had the effect of amping up his already massive ego. This is one of the times when the supposedly intransigent, steadfast Capello caved-in and took a footballing decision based on non-footballing reasons. I'm obviously no fan of John Terry (and would have been happy to use this as an opportunity to eject him completely if I was in Capello's shoes...good thing I'm not then) but, to use an appropriate idiom, Capello made his bed.

    Just to get this off my chest, I'm glad that Terry will be absent for the two qualifiers. One of the key culprits for the South African failure, Terry's attempts at insurrection, resulting in some suicidal defending to show that he'd still give a 'captain's performance' and had the 'heart of a lion' was one of the reasons why Germany found it so easy to score goals on the counter. His one-man crusade left England woefully exposed at the back when chasing the game. Who just let Schweinsteiger pass to Mueller and then 'watched' Mueller score the third goal? And who was it that should have been tracking Thomas Mueller for the fourth goal? Oh, it was John Terry who was at the other end of the pitch attempting to dribble around the German back four. Ridiculous.

    So, Capellos's got enough players in form and accepting the fact that he supposedly has a wealth of tactical knowledge (albeit lacking the ability to construct an optimised squad), if he can improve the way he communicates his plans to the players then that will undoubtedly yield positive results. If England do not perform in these two games, then in all likelihood Capello could see himself in a bit of hot water, although the incompetence of the FA may grant him a stay of execution.

  • Comment number 61.

    Phil, Are you embarrassed to mention Rooney in your blog? He is a notable absence. Despite many of us telling you all the evidence pointed against Rooney performing well in the World Cup(i.e. he usually fails in the really big matches) you spent much of the build up telling us he was the player to build the team around.

    Perhaps now after his two World Cup failures and two Champions League Final failures you will stop this ridiculous hype, although I fear a few goals against the weak qualifying teams and it will all start again. The words 'not good enough' are difficult ones but necessary in Rooneys case.

    Capello is not the only one who needs to regain his credibility.

  • Comment number 62.

    My main objection to Capello's performance at the world cup was when he became manager he slagged off previous managers for picking out of form or injured players. He then picks Heskey, who's main contribution was to remove Ferdinand from the team, and Barry who showed in the Germany match why unfit players cannot cut it at international level.
    I can't see anyone better though, especially as the next manager will be English (so NOT O'Neill)

  • Comment number 63.

    Forget the WC its over !!!
    Forget Martin O Neill
    Cappello's still the manager so lets look to the future, this competion in some ways is even tougher than the world cup you dont get weak teams in the Euro's.
    Lets ship out some of the old "golden boys" and ship in some hungry youngsters with something to prove. The oldies have more than enough chances and failed every time. Onwards and upwards time waits for no man!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Capello didn't have one terrible game. He had a string of them that hasn't ended. Gods need to start taking responsibility for their own actions. Capello should as well.

  • Comment number 65.

    What I don't understand is why everyone is jumping on Capello's back for casting Beckham out, when only 12 months ago everyone was praising him for not giving anyone preferential treatment..

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    Is Capello the man to lead England? Well first we must ask, what are the qualities required for the job of an England manager.

    Surely a man who can communicate is a basic requirement, 2 years on and he still has not achieved that. Has he good man management skills? I doubt it, he's hardly an Alex Fergeuson or a Brian Clough type, whose players may or may not like the managers style but they all seemed like they would go through a brick wall for them.

    Tactically, well at club level maybe, I would argue most leading managers can manage big clubs with the budgets available. Internationally he showed time and time again that he got it totally wrong by playing quality players eg Gerrard out of position. He took unfit players to a World Cup, something that has never worked in the past and never will in the future. His tactics look old and dated, we seemed to be the only team playing the formation we had at the World Cup. All well and good if it was a new formation that no one expected but alas it was the same old England that inferior sides eg Algeria could easily negate. He gave reasons of tiredness, unfit players and bad luck. Well he picked them, they had a rest and more time together than previous World Cups and as for luck, we were lucky to get out of the group playing the way we did.

    Has he been a success? definitely NOT. People speak of his record in qualification well that one should be taken for granted, given the level of opposition. Only one team can win a championship held every four years I really don't think it's realistic to win every time but we should be able to challenge and play to a level which we can admire.

    Good managers somehow get the best out of average players, YES it can be done eg Roumania, Bulgaria and Ireland at World cups. Hand on heart, I couldn't say Jack Charlton was a great manager but what he achieved for Ireland was amazing with what was available to him.

    It can be done but there is no way it will be done with Capello in charge.

  • Comment number 68.

    Results- WC qualifying were great, I see no reason Euro qualifying results wont be the same.
    Oh yes South Africa, what happened there- we still dont know......

  • Comment number 69.

    The thing is, we're playing Bulgaria. Bulgaria are rubbish. Beating them is a formality, it won't make any difference to Capello's reputation one way or the other. What matters is how England perform against the world's best teams, and we'll just have to wait for 2012 for that to happen again...

  • Comment number 70.

    Everybody is entitled to Phil's opinion. Be that as it may you will recall the Jose Mourinho "Egg/Omelet" rant. Don Fabio is just too diplomatic, but in trying to lure the likes of Scholes out of international retirement, he was sending the message that the quality of eggs currently available to him cannot produce the 'Gourmet Omelet' that the English press and fans crave. A sober look at the current FIFA rankings should serve as a reality check for the press and fans. So accept that even the best coach in the world (Whoever he/she is) cannot transform the fortunes of the 'Three Lions' in the short and even medium term!

  • Comment number 71.

    When england qualified for the worldcup 2010 the english world praised the team and capello the english world believed they were going to win the worldcup and what happend? only very just qualified for the last 16 and than the first decent team they play england was knocked out.
    Yes cappello made mistakes and he maybe a good club manager but a national coach he isn't.Sacking him yes because if a manager of a team can't get the team to perform when it counts than he is not the right man however who employed that man ? The FA so the FA needs to go for employing the wrong man.The EPL is debtloaden but yet more and more foreign stars going to play there despite the warning that british talent don't get a chance to prove them self.Sorry but I think englands future looks bleak .Why is Rooney guaranteed a starting place when he didnt perform ? But if england qualifies for euro2012 the hype will go on
    we win the euro and after we win worldcup in 2014.I'm sorry but englands FA is a complete joke.What wonders me is that cappello struggles to speak english especially after defeat,but there you go english team and italian manager what a laugh says it all the FA got no confidence in their own english managers,why don't they get italian players to play for england ?Get rid of the old players and let the young ones play is the only longterm solution let those young guys fail and learn but in 4-6 years time england will have a future in international football again.

  • Comment number 72.

    Here we go again, the same old nonsense. Englands players just weren't and aren't good enough collectively or individually, end of.

    You can talk forever about managers and we normally do but they don't get better than Cappello and you're deluded if you think they are. He's looked at whats available and made the call 4-4-2 is about all they can understand and the same tired old individuals are the best we've got (even if they aren't good enough).

    Seeing Steven Gerrard talked about reverentially in the papers after one decent performance against an at best 3rd rate Hungarian team sums up where we are, nowhere on the international stage!! Unless you count beating 3rd rate teams at home 2-1 as proof of genuine international quality.

  • Comment number 73.

    To TheOneVoiceOfReason...take your point entirely about Capello's cv being built up at club level, but who is there out there with an outstanding international cv that would improve England? Would you ignore Mourinho as a potential international manager because he has only a club cv? I suspect most fans would not.

    I have accepted totally that Capello made mistakes both in selection and judgement in the build up to the World Cup, during it and after, but I still believe he deserves a chance to put this right.

    It may seem a long while ago now, but he was almost flawless in England's qualifying campaign. Why not see if he can recapture that form?

    I do also accept that the pressure on his position would be huge if England slipped in either of these two games. This is why we have reached a crucial stage in his England career.

  • Comment number 74.

    I suppose he'll be sacked if England lose both games.

  • Comment number 75.

    I am in broad agreement, but a small appeal to Phil and everyone else for sanity when it comes to "the 4-1 defeat" that everyone still harps on about. Yes, it was Germany. And yes, that game exposed deep flaws in England's formation, fitness and general ability to perform.

    But on the other hand, it was the only game in which we showed flashes (painfully too brief) of the potential that we were supposed to finally live up to in SA. There were spells in that ganme where we dominated one of the best teams in the tournament. Germany were rocking when it should have been 2-2 and their cross-bar was reverberating after a free kick that could have seen 3-2. After that they hit us on the break twice - exposing those serious flaws, especially fitness - and then they sat back - and we had nothing more to offer creatively. Overall it was very disappointing, but my point is that Algeria was actually England's nadir, not Germany, so will people please shut up about it just as we were all told to forget Eriksson's 5-1.

  • Comment number 76.

    70: "A sober look at the current FIFA rankings should serve as a reality check for the press and fans."

    Would they be the FIFA rankings in which England are 7th in the world and 4th in Europe? That IS a reality check, but probably not in the way you want - it shows England are a perfectly good international side and losing ONE game (even 4-1) to probably the best European team apart from Spain at the WC, does not alter that.

    Put it this way - how many Man Utd fans were calling for Ferguson to be sacked after Liverpool beat them 4-1 two seasons ago? That was a similarly poor performance to England-Germany, but one poor performance does not make a world-class, all-time great manager awful.

    Blaming Capello's system is pathetic when the only teams England have lost to were France (and this was in 2008 when they were still half-decent), Spain, Brazil and Germany. I see absolutely no shame in that whatsoever.

    I tip England to qualify unbeaten for Euro 2012.

  • Comment number 77.

    Phil, Capello was almost flawless in England's qualifying but given our group and the calibre of our team, qualification should have been a formality regardless of who was in charge. Capello's reputation as England manager was built on delivering what Steve McClaren failed to do.

    Two good results against Croatia - the first of which was largely achieved when they were down to 10 men and the second at Wembley when they were lacking three of their best players - disguised the fact that we were still playing the same sluggish football we'd been playing for years. We were poor against Ukraine at Wembley and lucky to win that, lost to Ukraine away (albeit in a dead-rubber) and frankly any manager should be able to convincingly beat Andorra and Belarus. Capello simply managed to do what Steve McClaren failed to do and for that he was deified.

    He made a catalogue of errors at the World Cup and as has been pointed out above, the Germany game was simply the culmination of several horrendous displays, both in the group and in the warm up games to the World Cup. Aside from a good friendly win against Germany a couple of years ago, our performances against other top nations (France, Spain, Brazil, Holland) in friendlies have been abject. Capello may have been an extremely successful club manager, but we have not progressed under his reign as England manager and our performance at the World Cup was only a surprise to those people who had been convinced that he was the Messiah for taking us out of an average group.

  • Comment number 78.

    Nice article Phil.
    wanted to ask if you see any paralels between capello's reign and that of Glen Hoddle.

    Both had succesful qualifying campaigns (both unbeaten i think) both then went to a world cup and failed - though hodle arguably did better than capello - and both were warmly received by the media when winning and both had puzzling selections when they got to the world cup (Owen and Heskey).

    You say you are a fan of Capello and seem to support him staying in his job (results permitting) so do you think that Hoddle was un-necessarily hounded out and could have been given more time or had his relationship with the players got too bad? (given that his bizarre religious beliefs were known before the world cup and surely an excuse to sack him rather than a reason).

  • Comment number 79.

    #6 summed it up better than the blog.

    It's not 'just' about the results either Phil, Capello is making a mockery of himself with his poor judgements on and off the pitch.

    I would be quite happy to see him replaced because I don't think he's the right bloke for us.

  • Comment number 80.

    I think its fair to say that England are a second rate national football team. There are a group of 5 or 6 nations that are miles better than them. However, a "great" manager should be able to over achieve with this bunch of players and have them challenging the top nations.

    You cannot blame the players as Capello had two years to pick his players. Everyone knows these "golden generation" guys dont cut it and a good manager should know this after two years with them. Would it take a Premier League manager two years to sort out which players he can trust etc?

  • Comment number 81.

    "...the man who gets the results wins all arguments."

    This is a really daft comment.

    a) For one reason, nobody else who comments has chance to try their alternative, so even if the incumbent delivers a relative degree of success, we still don't know if alternatives would be an improvement.

    b) We've seen this before. Sure, Capello may waltz again through qualifiers with 4-4-2, Lampard and Gerrard together or Gerrard on the left, and without making any real changes. Are we then supposed to all start worshipping him again and mindlessly building up our chances of victory at the next major championship?

    No, our team has the ability to qualify without playing to their full potential in terms of tactics, motivation and team selection. But to win anything significant we need to get the most out of every last determinant factor, so should be preparing for this, rather than buttering up our ego's against Europe's also-rans with an out-dated formation and past-their-sell-by players.

  • Comment number 82.

    How convienient! England did badly at the World cup not because of Capellos bad judgement. Because England are not as good as the media crack them up to be. Rooney was exhausted as were one or two others. Some of the defence especially against Germany didn't do their job. Plenty of Goalkeepers made mistakes during the tournament and the only Keeper who was Dropped for his, was English. That was as much due to media pressure as bad judgement. Yes Capello is a dead man walking if England don't win their next couple of games, but only because the media will be baying like hungry pack dogs. I doubt O Neill is foolish enough to take the job as when Trappatoni retires after the next campaign he will probably manage Ireland, a much easier job in terms of pressure and media expectation. We must however be careful when we talk about what we don't understand. Because if we are informed and we dont' understand then there is a fault perhaps in Capellos methods to be found, but if we don't understand, simply because we haven't got a clue what is going on, then the fault would lie not with Capello at all. I think Mr Hat will do the trick for you guys yet.

  • Comment number 83.

    Everyone keeps on saying Gerrard is played out of position. What exactly is his position, and would he stay there? We have got good players but they just can't seem to handle, or want to, play in areas that they are not accustomed to.

  • Comment number 84.

    Why doesn`t Dave play football again. Apart from getting more money that he doesn`t need, he is wasting his time in the USA. A final spin in the lower Prem/Championship/SPL would be a good way to sign off. Maybe Celtic as would give him a short spell in champions league next year. (ok, a v. short spell :) )

  • Comment number 85.

    Given that the level of esteem in which Capello is currently held is based on comfortable progress through World Cup qualifying and a shambolic performance at the tournament, I fail to see what difference comfortable progress through the Euro qualification will make to hos reputation.
    The rehabilitation of his reputation can only happen if England do much better in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.

  • Comment number 86.

    "Capello's mistake was even getting involved. Beckham, ageing and injured, is a supreme irrelevance to England's current plight. He is a non-issue."

    "The other stick Capello is currently being beaten with is the lack of young faces in England's squad, but at least he has warmly embraced Theo Walcott's rejuvenation at Arsenal"

    Phil, i sincerely did miss you since the wc. Some of your cllleagues attempted to wite blogs but were way below par and rightfully got the stick from alot of us 606 members.

    But i cant help but question 2 of your comments above. Why not rest your case with the Beckham issue, you seem to write about him as if you had a crush for him and you got heart broken. The whole nation knows becks was missed pitched side during the wc, but he immemsely contributed in the back room which has been well documented by all members of the team, even those who were eventually dropped spoke graciously aout his contribution, so why do you (just like the rest of us) who do not have direct access to the team coninue to criticise negatively, are you loosing the plot? I hope not, cos your capable of writing good inspiring blogs that get the fans going, and you dont want us to turn against you.

    Also, did i get you right on Theo Walcott, thought you were on of his critics, and was glad he wasnt selected for the WC? Why the sudden change after just 3 games in the premiership? Surely by your standards this should noyt be enough to justify a place in the team? I wpuld like to hear your responce to this, should be quite interesting.

  • Comment number 87.

    Unfortunately for Capello, and us, we will never be sure what we are going to get from an England side whilst he is manager. His credentials are impeccable, and he has some talented players, but something went badly wrong in South Africa and the period leading up to the World Cup.

    Even if we qualify for Euro 2012, the same old trepidations will resurface again which, I think, will be insurmountable for even this Italian..

    I had been a staunch supporter of his prior to South Africa, but he has run out of time and options, and it's time for a change, before we get suckered in again to another solid qualifying campaign followed by the usual tournament disasters.

  • Comment number 88.

    Cup-hungry teams like Chelsea and Man Utd don't select donkeys to play in their first teams - the England SA squad was world class. What they needed was the cement of a manager who could speak their language.
    How do predominantly working class english footballers relate to a man who has a 10 million pound art collection at home?

    The FA strikes again - now there's an organisation that needs a shakedown...

  • Comment number 89.

    If the press weren't so hell bent on getting rid of him then he wouldn't have to be so cautious about what he says. I'm getting a little weary of football journalists trying to dictate the agenda. Leave it to people who know what they're doing. ie. people in football, not people who just wish they were.

  • Comment number 90.

    #19 Carblue - Leave Redknapp out of it! He is too busy with his current job to take on England. If you want an English manager, go for Hodgson.

  • Comment number 91.

    Sorry Karlblue!

  • Comment number 92.

    In the WC you only can blame the manager for his bad selection of players. I would call some of them walking invalids & players that hadn't played very little for their club & the rest of players that didn't turn up

    One of the best strikers at the present moment is Andy Carroll & he's handful for any defence, Adam Johnson definitely should play & Clive Walcott. The midfield has been the problem over lots of internationals. Lampard & Gerrard don't mix & we certainly miss Hargreaves as holding midfield player.

    Average players such as Carlton Cole, Upson, Wright-Phillips and Carrick Heskey, & the overrated at international level Lampard.
    Gave Young ones a chance.

  • Comment number 93.

    Just finished Bobby Charlton's book "My England Years". At that time he was a fan of Capello, but what he said about Ramsey still holds. He picked the best players for the team. then he found a system that suited them. Then he defended them against the media and FA. He also dropped one or two top players because they didnt fit his scheme. Then he prepared them down to the last detail before and during the tournament. He didnt have the luxury of substitutes back then and it was probably better for it (injuries notwithstanding). Capello needs to back himself more.

  • Comment number 94.

    "Capello's not unreasonable defence is that a reputation built to unrealistic heights before the World Cup has been taken down to unfathomable depths on the basis of one single, admittedly crushing, defeat to Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup".

    Which World Cup were you watching? It was a disaster from start to finish! The sooner Capello goes the better.

  • Comment number 95.

    Capello is a good manager but you can only work with what you're given. Those of you saying he has only proven himself as a club manager should be awarded the Phil McNulty Award for Stating the Obvious. Its time to accept that its our players and ONLY our players who are to blame. We just aren't good enough, never have been.

    Sure it is Capello who picks the team and I agree some of his selections are very puzzling eg why is Lampard always selected when he has consistently failed for England over the years. I honestly regard the injuries to Terry, Lampard and Crouch as the best news for the team in a long while. It's time to move on, Terry is slow, easily turned and a liability in central defence, Lampard is absolutely useless and while Crouch scores goals against the lesser teams his inclusion usually means we resort to long balls up to him while he attempts to get onto them without fouling opposition defenders, something that rarely happens.

    Lets move on and if Capello refuses to leave out the likes of Terry and Lampard lets hope that those playing tonight put it in good enough performances to force him not to include them next time.

  • Comment number 96.

    I didn't really know much about Capello prior to his appointment however I was lead to believe he was this ruthless master tactician. We qualified out of our qualifying group with ease, because it was an easy group. But the fact of the matter is, when we come up against a France, Germany, Spain etc we get beaten quite comfortably. Personally, I would assume that Capello's huge salary points to the fact that he should be getting us to perform when it matters. And at the World Cup he failed in dramatic fashion. This, for me, was enough for him to have been showed the door. Was it not stated by the FA that they wanted at least a semi-final appearance?

    To me, Capello comes across as a man who just is not bothered about his England team. And at the end of the day, why would he be? He gets pain regardless and has no emotional attachment what so ever to this side. His communication with his players is absolutely shocking, and some of his descisions have been completely bizarre. Capello making mistakes at the World Cup is a complete understatement. He took unfit players, played our best players out of position, decided it was a good idea to bring Heskey on when we were 4-1 down against Germany, had our only creative player sat on the bench, and persisted with a formation that just didn't work. We were the laughing stock of the World Cup.

    I appreciate we might not have technically gifted players like Spain, but Capello's job is to squeeze the absolute maximum out of our side. He didn't. He failed. It seems some people are in denial. The great Capello with a World class C.V couldn't possibly fail on this scale. Well, he did.

    Nothing will change under Capello. I doubt I'll watch tonight because it will just be so frustrating seeing the same faces and the same formation. No doubt we'll breeze through this group but we will not have to play a top side until the finals (if we get there), at which point we will be dumped out by the first decent side.

  • Comment number 97.

    My point is that the Beckham saga takes just too long.I agree Capello should have been more diplomatic for his own sake about it but what is the point on discussing a 35 year old who is still recovering form injury and most of his recent England caps were just cameos whether he will play again?

  • Comment number 98.

    The Bulgaria game will prove everything we've known for 6 years. That Gerrard and Lampard cannot perform together in the same side. It is a blessing in disguise that the aged Frank Lampard is injured. Just watch how more fluently England will play and especially how the performance of Gerrard will improve.

    As for SWP. This guy is a terrible footballer and should never make an England squad.

    Barry is too slow.

    I'm an evertonian and Jagielka is not England quality.

    This was our chance to start again with a new generation of players. Build them around Gerrard, Rooney and Ashley Cole.

    Shawcross and Cahill should be fastracked into centre back positions. Rodwell, Noble and Wilshere are all clever footballers and should be included. Moyes didn't play Rodwell in the 1st two games you say, we lost to blackburn and drew with Wolves.

    Carroll has the attributes to go far, he would be an assett on the international scene. Adam Johnson should be an automatic starter now, He is not this mould of "fast" footballer, with great pace but limited ability. He is a clever footballer, with bundles of skill and end product.

  • Comment number 99.

    I have had a good read through all the posts so far and I still read things I cant fathom.
    People talking about a 'rigid' 4 4 2 IT WAS NOT!!!
    I have never seem a more disorganised shambles in my life, people playing out of position, every time we saw a high level view of the pitch we were all over the place. Yes the players performed badly (CHOKED) but organisation is down to the coach and his team.

    The ongoing criticism of Heskey, I am no lover of the guy BUT he did not play that badly and was the player with the touch round the corner for Gerrards goal, he did not lose us a world cup, he's contribution (and check the stats) was far greater than Rooney's (who has not become a bad player overnight) but we will have to wait for capello to go and all the books to be written to find out what was wrong..... Exhausted, I have read.... Please, the guy is in his early 20's, there can only be issues in his family life, personality clash with athe manager or team mates, or the injury was far worse than we knew, plus the fact hidiously out of form for United pre WC.
    'Carrick can't change a game' a chance would have been nice, he too was out of form but could only have done better than the chokers and scufflers we had on the pitch.
    Rumour has it that Scott Parker and Dawson shone in the pre WC training and neither initially made the cut, what went on there?
    The Paul Scholes debate, in hindsight god yes we needed him but if Capello did not have the courtesy to call him personally and then expect an answer in 2 hours maybe this is the kind of management the team suffered in the camp.
    He is a fine player but not the answer now, we do need to move on (BUT if things go badly in the first two games maybe we can review that?? :-) )
    If you ever get the chance look at the VT before the USA game, for some reason only Green and Terry were in the tunnel, Green was standing behind Terry looking like a rabbit caught in headlights and about to drop kittens, let alone the ball, Terry was focussed on what he had to do but as an ex captain, a little word or a pat on the shoulder was needed.... The camera panned around to ALL the USA team, laughing, relaxed, high fiving each other, a slightly different team spirit??

    Re the Martin O'Neil thing I have always had time for him his teams are organised, attractive and expansive, he is a passionate and motivated individual but I suppose as some FA prole has said we will have an English manager next he is out of the running anyway.
    What a mess to get into but I suppose when the organisation running the team manage to double book their (only) stadium and have to move fixtures, pay off the football league for renaeging on a contract, we know what we are up against. Shambles

  • Comment number 100.

    To be fair Phil the FA put pressure on Capello to play Beckham and the big five sponsored players is all games, the World Cup bid behind that move. Fabio would love to drop Lampard or Rooney but he cant.


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