Fabio Capello’s resignation as England boss last Wednesday was initially met with a mixture of shock and relief. Whether you were supportive or critical of his decision to stand down, one thing is for certain, you had an opinion.
In the world of football everyone has an opinion. From the back-page columnist, to the ex-professional, sometimes you can’t move for an opinion. With the growing popularity of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s almost too easy to offer an opinion on the modern game.
In fact, nowadays it’s very rare to find a tabloid article which doesn’t refer to a ‘tweet’ or some other observation in the public arena.
However, last week, once the yellow ‘BREAKING NEWS’ strap line confirming Capello’s resignation appeared on every 24-hour news channel, the ‘pundits’ turned up in their droves, offering thoughts on who should be his successor. The Italian’s seat was barely cold before the masses made their minds up on who that man should be.
Now whether that man should be Harry Redknapp, Guus Hiddink or Alan Partridge is irrelevant here. What struck me was just who was offering an opinion. A quick look on the Twitter timeline, and the likes of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were nailing colours to their mast by calling for Redknapp’s appointment, and that struck me as weird.
Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, but I found it immensely unprofessional for two of England’s most pivotal and important players to openly call for Redknapp’s appointment.
Surely by doing so, they are instantly undermining any potential manager linked with vacant position, who isn’t Harry Redknapp.
Over the next few weeks and/or months, the Football Association have an immensely difficult task of finding a suitable replacement. This should be a footballing decision, not one which suits the fans and the players.
Two months ago, England were heading towards Euro 2012 with ambitions of mounting a realistic challenge. Now, England are staring down a barrel of uncertainty, and could potentially head to Ukraine and Poland with a dis-united squad and a manager who doesn’t have the full respect of his players.
The national team find themselves in a position not too dissimilar to that which the Netherlands found themselves in just eight months before the 1990 World Cup.
Thijs Libregts had been relieved of his duties as national team coach, and as the KNVB were deciding who should be his successor, the players decided to hold their own forum in Schipol to vote on who they thought should be the man to take over.
At the time the Dutch were European Champions following their success in 1988, and were heading to Italy as tournament favourites.
However, rumours of divide were circling, with suggestions that the squad was split between the Milan players (Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard) and the rest.
Every player had an opinion and duly gave it, but collectively they decided that the perfect managerial replacement should be Johan Cruyff. This decision was leaked to the media, who too called for the appointment of Cruyff. Perhaps unsurprisingly this didn’t sit well with the KNVB.
As either a direct defiance to the players’ calls, or simply a flexing of authoritative muscles, the select committee headed by Rinus Michels, the man who lead the Dutch to Euro glory just two years earlier, ignored the masses and installed Leo Beenhacker as head coach, with himself as an advisor.
It was a move which ultimately ended the Netherlands World Cup dream before it could even begin.
Beenhacker, in David Winner’s fantastic book ‘Brilliant Orange’, knew he was accepting an impossible position, but conceded there was an allure to the position. “There was a special circumstance why I accepted the job. I will never tell the reason; but there was a special reason to accept,” he said.
The Netherlands went into Italia ’90 a shadow of the team they should have been. They lacked the unity of two years prior, felt ignored by their football association, and were led by a coach who simply could not control them.
Three draws in the group stage and a battling loss to Germany in the first knock-out round put an end to their world cup campaign, and confined them to the history books.
While they would go onto reach the semi-finals of the European Championships two years later, in many respects the die had already been cast.
Arguably, the Netherlands did not look a like a footballing force again until 1998, a period of nearly ten years. And although there were issues of racial divide plaguing that period, the KNVB’s decision to ignore the players in 1990 did not aid an already fractious relationship.
England can’t afford to be set back ten years, as the footballing public endure yet another disappointing reign. Players will come and go, and their relationship with the FA will no doubt sour at some point, but the appointment of the next England manager should not be their decision.
While the FA may have fallen on their sword hiring, in Fabio Capello, a disciplinarian who managed and quit on principles, they need to be given the chance to hire the best man they believe could take England forward. This needs to be a footballing decision, not populist pandering.
Follow me on Twitter: @SimonKnights