The Football Association yesterday set out its targets for Fabio Capello and declared that he needs to reach the semi-finals of the 2012 European Championship and the 2014 World Cup to be deemed a success.
The goals, set out in a document launched at Wembley Stadium, also include the opening of the National Football Centre at Burton by 2010 and the appointment of a performance director who will travel the world and aid Capello in the development of players.
However, by setting goals of only reaching the last four – rather than winning a trophy – the FA opened itself up to accusations that it lacked ambition, especially as it is employing such a high-profile, successful and well-paid coach such as Capello. The FA also does not make any mention of what it expects to be achieved for the 2010 World Cup, nor what would happen if the manager failed to make the last four in 2012.
The criticisms were met head on by FA chairman, Lord Triesman, who, along with the director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking, argued that the organisation was simply being realistic. "I don't think we have gone backwards," Lord Triesman said when reminded that one of the targets set for Sven Goran Eriksson, in a blueprint launched in 2001 by the then FA chief executive, Adam Crozier, was actually winning a trophy.
"Let me put it how I see it," he added. "I see it how England fans see it. One, I want to see us play in every major tournament, I don't want to see us [again] in the position we are in this summer [of not qualifying]. Two, I want to feel we will be in the real mix at the end of it. I would love to win every tournament, I'm no different from anyone else in that, I want to win everything we play for. But if someone were to say to me, 'do you think it's inconceivable that a great Brazilian or a great Italian side will come through and might not in the final produce a fantastic performance?' well that's what football's like, isn't it?"
To this Brooking added: "The harsh fact is that we have not won anything for 42 years. At the moment it is tough for whoever is the coach. If you don't have a strategy you may as well go home."
Capello said he was in favour of the targets. "My personal ambitions for every team I have coached and managed is to go to the top," he said. "It is no problem for me that this target has been set. I think it is important to have these targets and to work towards them. I think we should all be confident on this because the team I have at the moment is capable of reaching these objectives." The England team last reached the semi-finals of a major tournament in Euro '96.
Capello said he fully backed the idea of a performance director to work alongside him. "I certainly believe I can bring some experience as an Italian manager and someone who has worked in Spain. This is my third country. At the same time I think that if you think you know everything then you are not going to go far," he said. "You have to be humble enough to know that you can always learn. You have to have someone who can go around the world and find out what we can learn and get the best from everyone else, not just football but other sports as well."
The appointment will undoubtedly re-open the debate between the FA and Premier League clubs who will certainly resist giving access to their players – as previous England regimes have discovered. There is also the thorny issue of finding someone of the right calibre to do the job especially as the FA is keen, because it has an Italian coach and general manager, to have an Englishman take up the post. There does not appear to be an outstanding candidate.
Lord Triesman said the FA wanted "the very best person we can get. My preference is that they are English if we can find the right person to do it. I think it's going to be somebody who understands sports performance but I have a strong sense that unless they understand football they probably won't be able to do this job properly. The balance of the job is this: the development of players is plainly a fundamental task and it's Trevor's. What the performance director needs to do is to understand among the competitors what makes them so successful on occasions."
Capello also launched an impassioned case for the construction of the National Football Centre which, finally, appears set to be built after years of delay. It will be funded partly by the FA and also through private backing. "I think it is of paramount importance to the national team," Capello said. "It will help having a home and a place where we belong, where we can live the spirit and feel what it means to wear the shirt, not just for the senior team but for the younger players who will use it in the future. I think it is paramount to have this centre."
It is hoped that the centre will help address what the FA refers to as the "insufficient high-quality players to represent the England national teams and insufficient quality coaches" to work with the players. The document followed a widespread review by the FA and sets out a number of "major milestones". These also include successfully bidding for the 2018 World Cup, increasing the revenue from television deals when they are next up for negotiation in 2011 and Wembley Stadium –which FA chief executive Brian Barwick admitted had "taken a financial hit" in its first year – turning a profit by 2012.
The FA also announced similar targets to the senior men's team have been set for the women's team with the prospect of a summer league also being established.