Capello the untouchable after year of revolution

In the 12 months since his England side were booed off the pitch at Wembley, the manager has led a remarkable turnaround

It is hard to believe how different it was for Fabio Capello one year ago as his England team embarked on a season of seven World Cup qualifiers. Only a late goal from Joe Cole earned him a draw at home to the Czech Republic. Harry Redknapp excoriated him on Setanta. His team were booed off the pitch. The national mood was behind the British Olympic team not the overpaid, wastrel English footballers.

One year on and poor old Setanta is no more. Joe Cole is long-term injured. Redknapp has a new job. No one can quite remember who won what medal at the Olympics and Capello is a genius. At the very least he is the man who can lead England to the World Cup finals next year with a fighting chance of going far in the competition.

Tomorrow will be a year to the day since England won their first qualifier against Andorra in Barcelona, a stuttering performance that gave no clues as to the virtuoso 4-1 victory that awaited in Zagreb four days later and the moment when the Capello regime caught fire. Now with seven wins out of seven in World Cup qualification England can clinch their place in South Africa with victory over Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday night.

Today, England play Slovenia which lies just 30 miles east of Capello's childhood home of Pieris in north-eastern Italy. Slovenia are ranked 54th in the world by Fifa, 45 places behind Croatia. The truth is that Capello could pick who he likes this evening. Wembley expects revenge against Croatia on Wednesday for the cataclysmic Euro 2008 defeats and by Thursday morning we should all be booking our flights to South Africa.

It cannot go wrong now. Can it?

Capello is entitled to experiment today, most likely with Jermain Defoe in attack alongside Wayne Rooney instead of the more familiar Rooney-Emile Heskey axis. The Heskey question will become more pressing if his form tails off this season. There needs to be an alternative, however attached Capello has become to the original template.

Yesterday, Capello emphasised his conviction that the talent runs deep in this England squad. It is a point he has made since he took over in January 2008, only for the first nine months no-one really believed him. He proudly ran through his roll-call of right-sided players yesterday: Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, James Milner and the man he refers to just as "David".

The conversation inevitably turned to the poaching of young foreign players by English clubs. Did that mean the next generation of young English players were not up to it? Capello screwed up his eyes and tried to remember some of the under-21s he had promoted to the senior squad. "Ashley Young and James Milner have come through, they were in the under-21s, [Gabriel] Agbonlahor as well, [David] Wheater," he said proudly.

As for young players coming into this team there may well be chances for Young, Milner, and Lennon today, especially as Capello announced that he will be making six substitutions at half-time. Ben Foster was given yesterday off to attend the birth of his baby son and was back in the team hotel last night. He looks favourite to start ahead of Robert Green, despite the latter having started the last three games.

Typically pragmatic towards the question of whether young players can thrive in Premier League club's academies which are stocked full of the likes of Gaël Kakuta and other aspiring foreign stars, Capello said the best would always emerge. "I'm thinking about Roma and Serie A again, I put [Daniele] De Rossi in when he was only 18 because I saw him during the training and he was good. If they are good enough then they will play."

As for the recent diving phenomenon, he dismissed it. "In my team, sometimes, yes, players dived. Yes, of course I minded. I don't like divers and I told players that. That's my opinion, but I'm not on the pitch and it is the players who decide whether they dive – I can't decide for the players."

The England cricket team, fresh from victory in the Ashes, will be at Wembley today as guests of John Terry and his team-mates. They will not want to embarrass themselves by making the same mistakes that they did against the Netherlands last month. Should England not be defending in a more Italian fashion? "No, not Italian, Spanish, Brazilian or Chinese. You just have to defend well," Capello said.

For all his bluntness, Capello has never patronised the English in the last 21 months; never made us feel inferior in the face of his Italian football heritage. That and his brilliant results is why, whatever happens today, Wembley will not be booing him off, and the pundits will probably go easy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable