Capello's first test is World Cup fixtures

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The Independent Football

High on Fabio Capello's "to do" list when he takes up his role as new England manager on 7 January will be to thrash out the fixture list for the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

With no competitive game until the autumn, the 61-year-old has plenty of time to weigh up who is fit to wear the Three Lions shirt with a renewed sense of pride. However, where England will begin their campaign to reach South Africa remains to be seen.

Only one of the six teams will go through automatically from the qualifying group, which also includes Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra. The meeting to arrange the fixtures was scheduled to be held in Zagreb today. However, it was postponed until early in the new year.

The scheduling of the winter fixtures, particularly in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, are likely to be crucial. One option would be to press for a "double-header", with two of the tricky away trips taken care of in the space of a week.

However, with some 3,479 air miles between London and Almaty on the borders of the Russian Federation and Asia, the Kazakhstan game may well be considered enough of a journey in itself. Andorra, though, play their major "home" games in Barcelona, so would not provide such a logistical issue.

During Monday's unveiling Capello talked about building his plans during the four friendly matches between now and the opening of the qualifying campaign. Two of those have been confirmed against the Euro 2008 co-hosts, Switzerland, at Wembley on 6 February, and France in Paris on 26 March.

However, England's plans for the end of the season remain open to debate. A game against Scotland has not been ruled out, though Capello would be under threat of embarrassment against England's resurgent rivals, and there has been plenty of interest from other sides who have qualified for the European Championship, with England remaining attractive opponents despite not reaching the finals.

A game against the Netherlands remains a possibility, the two nations having drawn 1-1 in Amsterdam during November 2006.

There has also been suggestion of a short overseas tour, perhaps to the United States or the Far East, where the English game is extremely popular. The final decision, though, will rest with Capello, who has already indicated no one can take anything for granted when his reign at Soho Square begins in earnest in three weeks' time.

Before then, the Football Association board are scheduled to meet tomorrow, where the future of the National Football Centre at Burton-upon-Trent not to mention which Englishman could make Capello's backroom staff is set to be on the agenda.

Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, maintains the development is of the highest importance to safeguard the future of the national game, both in terms of coaches and players alike.

"If we don't get it right the England coach's job will get that much harder," he said. "Unless we take the initiative now, missing Euro 2008 would be even more of a sacrilege.

"We must not let the debate on coaching and player development drop. We must invest and transform what we do. In other countries there is no doubt that the governing body takes the lead. The governing body has to look long term. We are the only ones looking that far forward and that is why I believe we should co-ordinate it."

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