The Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said yesterday that England's decision to hire foreign managers is "a form of cheating at international football" and "a little bit embarrassing" because it reflects the country's failure to develop a candidate who is good enough.
Fabio Capello arrived in a balmy Montenegro with his squad yesterday, seeking the point needed for qualification to next summer's European Championships. He may conceivably be asked to continue his role beyond then, if England progress to the semi-finals or beyond. But Carragher, who answered Capello's call for last summer's World Cup, said the Italian's appointment was an admission of failure and he insisted the next England manager must be English.
"If your manager's not good enough, that's your country's fault," Carragher said. "Get a better manager. Do the coaching qualification better. I think it's a form of cheating at international football and to be honest it's a little bit embarrassing. I think Capello's come into the job with all he'd done at AC Milan, and what he'd done at Real Madrid, and he's got an aura about him, a presence. [His predecessor] Steve McClaren didn't have any of that. And even if it didn't go right with him, you can't say, 'Oh, it's all right, we'll get a foreign manager now'.
"It's unfortunate but you have to go with the next best thing. Maybe it's something in our culture, or because English managers don't get the chance to win club games at the top. If all the Premier League managers were English then someone would have to win the league, someone would have to win the FA Cup. They'd have to accumulate these trophies and that's what it was like in the past."
The Football Association chairman David Bernstein said yesterday that the search for Capello's successor is yet to begin, declaring that the FA was "completely behind Fabio" and that "you can't be half pregnant with these things." Former incumbent Sven Goran Eriksson suggested that the FA should turn to Arsène Wenger.
Capello has guided England to seven wins in eight qualifiers on the road but Carragher said hiring a foreign coach was tantamount to saying: "Well, our keeper's not good enough so we're going to go and get Buffon from Italy', or whoever it may be." The 33-year-old defender has credited Gérard Houllier with playing a vital role in his own development at Liverpool and then played for six years under Rafael Benitez. But he said that the elevation of such managers came at the expense of Englishmen. "Benitez, Houllier, [Jose] Mourinho – they've all got things about them in terms of having won the big trophies," he told Talksport. "Does that mean English managers don't get a chance at the Premier League? Look at Chelsea with a 33-year-old manager. In years gone by David Moyes would have got that position, or an up-and-coming manager who's done a great job but that doesn't happen anymore."
Capello may be ready to retain Frank Lampard in the 17,500-capacity Podgorica City Stadium. As well as his four goals in two club games, Capello's staff consider the33-year-old's ball retention to have been far better and believe he looks far sharper and more confident.
Defence presents a more tricky challenge, with Capello simply unconvinced that Manchester City's Micah Richards has the consistency required for the right-back position, empty because of Glen Johnson and Chris Smalling's injuries. Richards' positional play was poor during City's defeat away to Bayern Munich last week and Capello still feels that his unpredictability as a player outweighs his natural athleticism.
Phil Jones is another possible contender, though since he has not yet started a game for England, it is currently touch-and-go between Phil Jagielka and Tottenham's uncapped Kyle Walker. Bolton's bad afternoon against Chelsea does not appear to have weighed heavily in Capello's mind, with Gary Cahill's goal and impressive performance in Bulgaria generally weighing in his favour as he competes with Jones to partner John Terry.
After a 40-minute practice game yesterday, Capello seems to be favouring the idea of going with two up front, with Bobby Zamora the slight favourite to partner Wayne Rooney.