Capello's Exit - Bitter but Necessary?
It all began with such optimism. The unveiling of Fabio Capello in December 2007 – a manager boasting nine major league titles and a European Cup across four major cities over 16 years – justified the billing he had been offered upon his appointment by FA officials. Trevor Brooking dubbed him “one of the world’s finest coaches”, insisting he had the “respect of everyone in football”. Capello embraced it as a “beautiful challenge”, and his earliest skirmishes intimated that he would be the man to rise to that challenge.
England achieved their best ever start to a World Cup campaign just a year into his tenure, accumulating nine successive victories under the sternest of gazes. Four years later, and Capello’s timely resignation prompted a collective sigh of relief throughout the echelons of English football. On February 9, 2012, Fabio Capello vacated his position as manager of the England national team, after a spell of on-pitch disappointment and off-pitch distaste.
Inciting the public gag reflex was yet another example of the FA’s perseverance towards ‘reward for failure’. Capello, akin one of his most vilified predecessors, Sven-Goran Eriksson, will take a reported £1.5m pay-off settlement despite instigating the resolution of his contract. The removal of his entire backroom staff has already grossed a £1m bill for the FA, including the dismissals of Franco Baldini, Italo Galbiati, Massimo Neri and Franco Tancredi, all initially employed upon the insistence of Capello back in 2007.
Indeed, Capello will once again find alignment with Eriksson in an opportunity to fall, kicking and screaming, upon his feet and without resistance. Sven divorced himself of English football with a considerably heavier wallet but in unsatisfactorily sour terms, yet managed to swiftly resuscitate his career with financially lucrative spells at Notts County, Leicester and the Ivory Coast. For Capello, a sympathetic response from the Italian media has already positioned him as a likely candidate to rediscover employment, in a managerial capacity, at Juventus or Inter Milan.
The bitterness of the divorce, despite the FA’s diplomatic assurance that they “thank Fabio for his work with the England team and wish him every success in the future”, is sure to leave both parties with distasteful ill-wishing for their former companion. Like the husband who cannot bear to see his former spouse rediscover happiness with a new partner, the British public and media will hope, deep down, that Capello doesn’t waltz back into top-flight management unresisted. Similarly, it would be hard to imagine Fabio Capello – his unity with English football now annulled – eagerly cheering on our nation from the edge of his FA-funded sofa at the European championships on June 8. Neither party ever truly embraced the union.
The seeming lack of genuine interest displayed by Capello throughout his tenure – his apparent unwillingness to learn English at an acceptable rate, his admission that “football is just a job to me”, his inability to name or identify England’s first-choice goalkeeper during a press conference – actually proved a perversely decisive factor in the decision made by the FA to employ him in the first place. Capello’s reputation as a distant, obdurate, waspish disciplinarian had seen him through the interview process, with the FA suitably impressed by his resilience and citation as a man of principles. Yet it was that insubordinate, headstrong mentality that proved the basis for his eventual resignation; Capello’s belief that the FA had undermined him over the stripping of John Terry as captain proved a tipping point. The FA had crossed the line, and consequently been bitten by a beast of it’s own creation.
His departure had been building; both the FA and Capello were of the understanding that the existing contract would not be renewed following the European Championships in the summer. Fabio Capello no longer wanted to manage England. England no longer wanted to be managed by Fabio Capello. The underperformance of England at the World Cup in South Africa – the utter impotence displayed in a decisive 4-1 loss at the hands of an energetic, invigorated Germany under the tenure of Joachim Low – did little to affirm Brian Barwick’s initial insistence that Capello was “a winner with a capital W”.
As the English public fell out of love with Capello, so too did the players. The inflexible, autocratic tactical and social restrictions enforced upon the squad did not rest well; with morale diminished, little enthusiasm for England’s chances at Poland/Ukraine 2012 held true amongst the English public and it’s media. For once, our instinctive tribal optimism had subsided; we no longer believed England could conquer all. Something was wrong. Capello’s England had extinguished the seemingly inextinguishable flame of English hope and expectation.
The Terry issue proved an affront that simply advanced the inevitable, with conflict perpetually bubbling beneath the surface. Dante Terrell Smith once asked; “Why did one straw break the camel’s back?” He reveals; “Here’s the secret – the million other straws underneath it.” The Terry debacle was a straw too far.
With England now one camel short of a flock, inevitable questions arise surrounding which unwitting candidate we should slaughter next. Some believe the camel must be English; many dispute that England simply doesn’t have the right climate to breed it’s own, thoroughbred, high-quality, camels. In any case, the poisoned chalice that is the England manager’s job still has it’s appeal; for English candidates, it represents the ultimate prize for the blind patriot. For foreign suitors, it will pay healthily. So who will be the next manager to inevitably quit as England manager under controversial circumstance and financial enhancement?
1) Harry Redknapp - On Wednesday, Redknapp had awoken to the possibility of a prison sentence, but tucked himself into bed that night as the bookmakers odds-on favourite to be the next manager of the England national football team. His work with Tottenham Hotspur has been nothing short of remarkable, as were some of the performances he bled out of limited resources with Portsmouth and West Ham. Charismatic, inspirational, and (perhaps most importantly) English, Redknapp seems to have emerged as the clear favourite for the job amongst players and public alike. Redknapp has found himself endorsed almost universally, with social networking site Twitter judging the public support with relative accuracy, particularly after insisting that “no Englishman would turn it [the England job] down”.
2) Guus Hiddink - A proven international manager, with spells in charge of Turkey, Russia, Australia, South Korea and the Netherlands, Hiddink has twice finished fourth at the World Cup, as well as reached a European Cup semi-final and a quarter-final. If England want a short-term fix for the position, Hiddink’s willingness to operate as a disposable mercenary could make him the ideal candidate for a single-competition term. Hiddink’s experience as a club manager includes spells with Valencia, Real Madrid, PSV Eindhoven and importantly Chelsea, suggesting he has the confidence to deal with any ego and experience of the English game. Hiddink is likely to be second choice behind Redknapp, although there is a possibility that he could temporarily occupy the job as an interim boss between Harry Redknapp’s eventual appointment and the FA’s decision to install Stuart Pearce as manager for the upcoming friendly with Holland.
3) Stuart Pearce - Another Englishman that will appeal to the tribal instinct to look within the confines of our own shores, Pearce has been undertaking his apprenticeship for the international management job by working closely under Capello and crafting his knowledge of the international game over the last four years. Since leaving Manchester City in 2007, Pearce has worked tirelessly with the best of England’s young prospects as Under-21 boss, becoming a highly respected part of the current international setup. Installed on Thursday February 9 as the temporary caretaker boss following Capello’s resignation, Pearce evidently has the backing and confidence of his potential employers. Questions still remain over Pearce’s readiness to take the job on a permanent basis; he is still relatively inexperienced in comparison to the alternatives.
4) Roy Hodgson - Hodgson will be regarded a genuine outsider for the position, with his difficult experience at Liverpool still weighing on the minds of many on the domestic scene. Given a limited budget, restricted resources and inhibited expectations, Hodgson can be expected to excel. However, he is relatively unproven at the top level, with just a sackful of Scandinavian domestic honours to show for his forty years as a manager. Hodgson still presents the most well-travelled option, having managed across the globe including spells at Halmstad, Malmo, Inter Milan, Blackburn, Udinese, Viking, Grasshopper and Fulham, as well as stepping into the international game with Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.
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