Thursday, 9 February 2012

How do you solve a problem like England?

Arrivederci Fabio: Capello and Bernstein's showdown talks ended in a handshake and farewell

Fabio Capello sensationally resigned as England manager yesterday just 121 days before the European Championships get underway in Poland and the Ukraine.

Four months before the first ball is kicked, England are without a manager, and a captain.

Many have tried and failed in the hot seat. Capello’s reign will ultimately be remembered for the shambles at the World Cup two years ago, where England succumbed to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Germany.

But Capello isn’t the problem. Nor McClaren, Eriksson, Keegan or Hoddle.

England’s record in major tournaments since they lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 has been far from stellar. Semi-final appearances at Italia ‘90 and Euro ‘96 the best they have managed.

The fact England has arguably the best league in the world is more to do with foreign imports since the inception of the Premier League, Sky’s money, and the fact England is a swell place to live (despite the recent arctic temperatures).

England currently lie fifth in the FIFA world rankings, but their record against the cream of world football defies such lofty status.

In the last two years, England under Capello have faced Spain, Holland, Germany, Brazil and France.

A 2-2 friendly draw with Holland in August 2009 was followed by a 1-0 defeat in Qatar at the hands of Brazil that November.

The thrashing to Germany followed, while a 2-1 reverse to France at Wembley in November 2010 didn’t inspire confidence in the national side.

The one anomaly to these set of results is of course the 1-0 victory over Spain last autumn. That, paired with a comfortable victory by the same scoreline to Sweden a few days later, was supposed to propel England towards to Euros this summer.

However, true to form, circumstance and ill-decision have derailed this momentum.

The points is, England have flattered to deceive for almost five decades, and despite a wealth of managerial talent to pass through the revolving doors at Soho Square, few have come close to replicating Sir Alf Ramsay’s feat.

The archaic structure that is the FA is at the root of the national side’s problems.

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan tweeted to say he thought the FA Committee was ‘old school’. Despite his lack of affiliation to the sport, he was not wrong.

It is chock-a-block of old bigwigs who need a kick into the 21st Century. Not enough time and effort is spent on grassroots, and the much-delayed home for England’s future stars, St George’s Park, is long overdue.

The academy in Burton won’t be ready until August. Just in time for a new manager one could argue. But too late for a generation that would have benefitted from similar tuition seen at Clairefontaine, a football centre famed for providing the platform for France's onslaught towards World Cup glory in 1998 and Euro 2000 success.

In many ways, the latest chapter in England’s helter-skelter history encapsulates how the FA has always operated: by dilly-dallying and missing the boat.

The debacle that set the wheels in motion for Capello’s resignation, the allegations made against John Terry, should have been cleaned up by now.

The incident involving Anton Ferdinand took place at Loftus Road on October 23. Over three months ago.

Terry’s behaviour both on and off the pitch over the past two years has not been in keeping with that of national team captain. The trial is scheduled for July 9, eight days after the Euro 2012 final. Therefore, there is no question he was rightly deposed last week.

But why has it taken this long?

Furthermore, after Capello’s words to Italy's state broadcaster RAI, where he totally disagreed with FA chairman David Bernstein's decision to strip Terry of the captaincy, three days elapsed before he was summoned to a meeting.

Bernstein was not bold enough to dismiss a man who openly rebelled against an organisation who paid him a reported £6m annual salary. It gave Capello time to assess his options, leaving the FA with egg on their face once more.

St George’s Park, Terry, Capello. A pattern is beginning to emerge.

There is no firm leadership at the FA and, as Martin Samuel argued in today’s Mail, Capello quit over a basic point of principle - that the football man does the football. And when this is taken away, he walks away.

You do wonder what Harry Redknapp is potentially letting himself in for.

Would the FA have stood by their man in the same way Tottenham have in recent weeks?

So, how do you solve a problem like England?

Recent events have cast serious aspersions on how the FA is run, but it is not the only concern.

Capello was supremely qualified for the role: Seven Seria A titles, four Italian Cups, two La Ligas, one Champions League and a Super Cup ia managerial career spanning 21 years. Add to this a win percentage of 66.67 with England.

One could even argue his three-and-a-half year tenure with the national side was a relative success.

Barring the humiliating exit at the hands of Germany, where there were no mitigating circumstances (Matthew Upson perhaps one), his record in qualification was exemplary, and a fresh, exuberant England team was beginning to blossom this qualifying campaign.

Capello ultimately struggled to assert his authority on the England side
Capello, in my opinion, walks away from this with his dignity intact as he proves he is not merely a puppet.

His club record puts Redknapp to shame, so there’s nothing to suggest two years down the line after a World Cup in Brazil, we won’t be returning to the same old issues as to where the problems lie.

Redknapp may be the people’s choice, but it doesn’t solve the crux of the problem: the FA.

It is too easy to say, ‘see how Spain do it, let’s follow them’.

What works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. What is clear though, is that a change in approach, organisation and delivery is needed from the FA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

agree with most of what you say but in england we do have a democracy that says, despite our personal views, that someone is innocent until proven guilty

not only is the FA operating on confused and contradictory beliefs but so are we, the public