Capello hit by return of English disease
Like his predecessor Steve McClaren, the Italian has lost a host of players to injury. Things better improve by June or he could suffer a similar end
Fabio Capello never gives the impression that he is a man who frets over the lessons of history or the mistakes of his predecessors, but even he might have heard something that struck a chord from the three former England managers with whom he shared a stage on Thursday night.
Capello was interviewed alongside Sven Goran Eriksson, Terry Venables and Graham Taylor on Thursday night at the League Managers' Association's President's dinner at Wembley. Capello is not the clubbable type – he normally has one eye on the door at these occasions – but his dining companions were eager to recall the best and worst aspects of the England manager's job.
Eriksson bemoaned the Premier League's dominance over international football. For Venables the penalty shoot-out against Germany at Euro 1996 still hurts. Taylor has never forgiven the referee Karl-Josef Assenmacher for not sending off the Netherlands' Ronald Koeman in that World Cup qualifier in 1993.
As Capello sat there at the heart of the English football establishment with nine wins in World Cup qualification, the kind of failures endured by those men around him must have felt very remote indeed. But what the England manager cannot deny is that if England had to play a World Cup finals this month they would – with a few exceptions – look very threadbare indeed.
There is, of course, some way to go until England's first game against the United States on 12 June and Capello will hope that his team is in better shape by then. On Thursday night, surrounded by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti, Capello made a joke about the state of his knee post-operation – "I think the players will be in better shape than me" – but his team's fitness is not really a subject for joking.
At the moment his entire back four is either injured, injury-prone or, in the case of one, on compassionate leave while he tries to save his marriage. In the space of seven days Capello sacked his captain and lost his first-choice, 77-cap left-back to a broken ankle.
"It's different from when you are a normal club manager," Capello said. "When you are managing a national team you only have the players for one week a month, sometimes for only two days, and that's not enough. With England I prepare something, speak with the players, and then this player is injured. It is a psychological job to be the manager of a national team, especially the England team." Those are the usual gripes of an international manager – not enough time with the players, too many injuries – but there are potential problems all over the England team and not all of them relate to fitness.
What happens at left-back if Wayne Bridge retires from international football over the Terry scandal? Leighton Baines is the next best thing and he has never won a cap. Paul Konchesky – who is injured – has two and the most recent against Argentina in 2005 was not a happy memory for him. Stephen Warnock is also injured but he has only one cap, against Trinidad & Tobago two years ago. While Wayne Rooney remains the key cause for optimism – "he is in a magical moment," said Capello – there are others who are showing a worrying tendency to pick up minor injuries or fail to get a run of form going. Theo Walcott and Joe Cole are both on the periphery of their club sides and Cole in particular must wonder where his chance will come with Chelsea this season.
The right side of the midfield is up for grabs again: Aaron Lennon is injured, Walcott's form has been indifferent and David Beckham will find out where he stands at Milan if his manager Leonardo picks him against Manchester United next week. Shaun Wright-Phillips does not start every game for Manchester City and Capello never seems to have invested much faith in Ashley Young.
Little wonder that Capello never considered removing Terry from the team altogether after the Vanessa Perroncel saga; his options to replace him at the moment would be Joleon Lescott or Matthew Upson. Steven Gerrard could do without another summer of turmoil at Liverpool as he tries to get his head right for a World Cup but that looks like the way it is heading.
Of course the man missing from the LMA stage on Thursday night was Steve McClaren, the only one of Capello's predecessors still in club management. McClaren could tell Capello a thing or two about injuries: he went into his most important game as England manager missing many key players, and he lost it.
Everybody Hurts: England limp to World Cup Finals
Three games back at Pompey. After his injury problems not at the ideal club at which to build his confidence up again.
Says he will be back in two weeks time. Been out since 29 December with medial ligament damage.
Out for three months and then banned for four games for elbowing Craig Fagan. Fit again but will he stay that way?
Stripped of the captaincy and out in Dubai trying to save his marriage. Usually plays even better in adversity although Louis Saha gave him the run-around.
Out for up to four months with a broken ankle that needs an operation. Even if he gets fit by the end of the season will struggle. Also back on the front pages
Not played since the end of December with a groin problem. Should be back in the next week. Always injury-prone.
Solid season, played 23 out of Manchester City’s 24 league games. One of those you can count on to stay injury-free.
Another consistent player who avoids injuries. Has made 25 starts for Chelsea in the league. Thigh injury gave him some problems this season
Has been back in the Liverpool team for four games now since his hamstring injury. Not yet warmed up properly into a run of form.
On fire this season. The one Capello cannot do without. Scored 26 goals already
Injured yet again before the game against Manchester United. Only 12 starts in the league and four goals in all competitions.
Theo Walcott - struggling to get in the Arsenal team
Joe Cole - struggling to get in the Chelsea team
Wayne Bridge - will he retire from international football?
Owen Hargreaves - finished for good?
Joleon Lescott - one game back since injury.
Fit and raring to go:
Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Shaun Wright-Phillips, David Beckham, Michael Carrick, Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Milner.
The left-back question after Cole and Bridge?
Leighton Baines - excellent recent form
Stephen Warnock - shin injury
Paul Konchesky - ankle problem, still two weeks away
Nicky Shorey - spent most of the season on loan in Championship.
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