At least it was in keeping with the woeful performances of the England team in their forgettable World Cup campaign this month that yesterday the Football Association even managed to botch the sacking of their manager.
Fabio Capello's career as England manager is not officially over but it would be fair to say that it lies twitching in the dust. A great coaching reputation in the modern game was laid low yesterday in a marquee in a dusty field in South Africa's North West province where Capello consented to allow the FA to go away and have a think about whether they wanted him to carry on as manager.
The end of World Cup finals for England teams are, generally speaking, pretty brutal occasions for the hapless managers involved. But this one was the equivalent of execution by a firing squad commanded by Emile Heskey.
Capello (nine league titles in Italy and Spain and one European Cup) was left to wait on the decision of Sir Dave Richards (one chairmanship of Sheffield Wednesday, relegated into anonymity). Richards is the chairman of Club England and sits on every influential board and committee in English football. He never speaks in public being forbidden to do so by the Premier League because, as one observer put it, Richards is the administrators' equivalent of Titus Bramble – he is never too far away from a very costly slip-up.
The result was that Capello has effectively been put on hold while Richards retires to make a decision. Or rather in the meantime he may hope that the England manager will be snapped up by a club side thus negating the FA's obligation to pay Capello the £10m left on his contract. The FA removed the get-out clause before the World Cup because they were concerned Capello could be poached by Internazionale.
Any employee, even an England manager on £4.8m annual basic, would struggle to interpret a decision by their employer to review their position publicly as a ringing vote of confidence. Capello is a dead man walking and yesterday the indignity of his position was plain to see.
"I think it is a good decision that they [the FA] have taken and the explanation they gave," Capello said. Closely followed by – and no doubt at the prompting of his lawyers – "I would prefer to stay."
Capello has experience of dealing with the Napoleons of European football. He was a protégé of Silvio Berlusconi at Milan; he was handpicked by Florentino Perez for Real Madrid and worked under Luciano Moggi at Juventus. Even so, his dealing with Richards, the Premier League chairman who has led a takeover of the FA by stealth, will be a new experience for Capello.
The end of a World Cup for England – it seems presumptuous to call their exit "premature" – is never pretty. There is clearly disquiet among the players, some of whom are waiting to see what Capello's future is before making decisions on their international futures. There is a lot of blame and recrimination but there is usually some closure too on the future of the manager. Not even that was achieved yesterday.
By Capello's side was Adrian Bevington, the managing director of Club England which is the body within the FA now putatively in control of the national team's affairs, and he did his best to hold it together in Richards' conspicuous absence. Bevington said the FA did not want a "knee-jerk" reaction to the end of the tournament.
Regrettably this is a saga that could stretch on through the summer with the FA and Capello playing the role of a couple who would like to divorce but just cannot come to an agreement on the settlement. England play Hungary in a friendly on 11 August at Wembley which promises to be the kind of depressing occasion that neither players nor fans will see much value in attending.
As he waits upon Richards' pronouncement on his future, Capello reflected on his team's shortcomings. He blamed the rigours of the Premier League season, claiming that the players were unrecognisable from those he had seen before Christmas. "I understand one thing which is really important and why England did not win before," he said. "The England players arrived at the end of the season tired.
"Every game we played in this period [after the end of the domestic season] I never saw the players that I saw in the autumn before the heavy Christmas spell or two months after Christmas [in the friendly against Egypt in March]. They trained well, they were focused on everything but they are not the same fast players that I know."
When asked whether he might have taken a younger crop of players to the World Cup, Capello snapped back "Where are the young players?". He said that the Under-21s who were beaten by Germany in the European championships final last year were not yet ready. When asked to come up with some players for the future he named Adam Johnson, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere. Bobby Zamora and Michael Dawson were also mentioned although they will be 33 and 30 respectively at the next World Cup.
Capello was not prepared to own up to any mistakes of his own when it came to the tournament and when he talked about his team's defending he was visibly pained. "Look, I am angry for this, I am really angry," he said. "I always spoke about what has to happen with their position on the pitch. They conceded five goals [in the tournament]. I think three of them were avoidable."
He said that he was "sorry" to the supporters who had come to South Africa to support the team and that he still had the "appetite" for the job. He was clear that he had been offered other jobs in the build-up to the World Cup finals and had turned them down to stay with England until Euro 2012 and now he was awaiting the support of the FA in reciprocation.
But of the elusive "Sir Dave" there was no sign and Capello, like the rest of us, must await his decision on the England manager. Who Richards will consult and when he will decide is not a matter of public record. In the meantime, Capello is left dangling, not knowing whether he will walk or get his £10m compensation and English football is in limbo.
WHAT CAPELLO SAID – YESTERDAY AND BEFORE ENGLAND'S FALL
During yesterday's press conference, Fabio Capello made a series of statements that stood in stark contrast to the previous hopes and ambitions he had previously stated.
On the players' performances
YESTERDAY: "Wayne Rooney played well in some games, but you can't speak about one player. All the players were not as good as I know, they didn't play as fast or as quick as they can."
13 DECEMBER 2007: "We coaches asked ourselves how it was possible that England didn't qualify for Euro 2008. England, more or less like Spain, wins very little despite having excellent players."
On the idea of a winter break
YESTERDAY: "We need a winter break. Germany always arrive in second half of the season very well [because they have a winter break]. But it's not my job to decide that."
6 MAY 2010: "English players arrive at the World Cup a little bit tired, but I think in one month, with the doctors and different training, we will be fit for the World Cup."
On his players' fitness:
YESTERDAY: "I think not only Wayne Rooney but all our players were really tired at this competition. All the coaches told me the physical situation of players was not like the players we know. I think it is down to the physical situation of the players why we lost, not the formation."
7 NOVEMBER 2009: "The players with us in South Africa will be all fit. If you have to recover someone, it's no good." )
On England's performance:
YESTERDAY: "I understand a lot after this tournament as the performance was not what we wanted."
"I hope the semi-finals is a minimum." (10 March 2010)
"If we don't at least reach the final, we will have failed." (13 May 2010)
On the players' mentality:
YESTERDAY: "When you get back to 2-2 the motivation is completely different, but the third goal for Germany was crucial."
"I believe English players are born with the will to win as well as the ability and I hope to be the man to get that out of them. I am confident I will." (15 December 2007)
On the disappointing results:
YESTERDAY: "In the games against Mexico, Japan, the friendly game here [against Platinum Stars], USA, Algeria, Slovenia and Germany we played well, but not as fast as we can."
"We have played the most important countries that will be at the World Cup, with the exception of Argentina, and we have played very well. I know the value of these countries and I believe my England team can beat all of them." (23 May 2010)Reuse content