Capello feeling the heat
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.
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.