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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory