Unfinished business is manager's motivation
After his side's dismal World Cup, the Italian is driven to restore his reputation
Tuesday 10 August 2010
It seems an illogical question to put to a man who is paid up to £6m a year but yesterday it felt natural to ask Fabio Capello why, after the summer's World Cup, it was that he wanted to continue in his job as the England manager.
"For me that [the money] was not very important," he said. "The confidence of the Football Association was important for me. I want to try again to go forward, to stay here and try to win something. Having got the confidence of the FA, that was the most important thing."
Now all Capello has to do is find some young players to integrate over the next two years; motivate his team to qualify for Euro 2012 and then find the magic formula that prevents them from falling apart when – or rather, if – they reach the tournament in Poland and Ukraine two years hence. He is already a rich man but at 64 you could make a case for saying that he does not need the hassle.
To illustrate his commitment, Capello said that this summer he had turned down offers from three clubs to leave England. He would not identify the clubs, or even which country they came from, but one was surely Internazionale, the European champions, which has never been an easy club to manage. It looks like a comforting refuge compared with England at the moment.
"The motivation for me is, as a manager, when you lose something you want immediately to do something better," he said. "It's like a player, when you lose one game, you want to win the next game immediately."
It was an honest assessment, if not one that particularly inspired confidence about the new campaign. Capello's English is never the best when he returns from time away in Italy and he struggled to articulate a philosophical point about footballers that is germane to his way of thinking. His basic point was: sometimes it goes wrong and no one knows why.
In evidence to support his theory Capello presented Brazil and their collapse against the Netherlands. "If you asked me why this happened, I don't know why," he said. "This is football." He was offering up much the same theory to explain why England lost their way in the second half after they were denied Frank Lampard's legitimate equaliser at 2-1 down to Germany at the World Cup.
There were other reasons too, in the main the tiredness that Capello believed his players suffered from after their domestic season. He has already said that he should have dispensed with the pre-tournament boot camp in Austria. Yesterday he cited Denmark's famous European Championship in 1992 when the players were summoned from their holidays after Yugoslavia were ejected at the last minute.
Peter Schmeichel and his Danish team-mates were famously "on the beach" when the call went out from Uefa that they were to be granted a place in the tournament. Their non-existent preparation came to be regarded, in hindsight, as a strength. Would England's pre-Euro 2012 plan be just as radical? "Something different for sure," he said.
What is for certain is that Capello has lost much of his aura. The nine wins in World Cup qualifying meant that his every pronouncement – from team formation to John Terry's private life – came as if handed down on tablets of stone. Not any more. It has been eroded by the four performances in South Africa.
"I think that I did a good job in qualification for the World Cup," he said. "I think my record is a good record. I don't know the future. But I believe the fans should trust me.
"I'm here because I have confidence in this team. I don't like to work without expectations. I want to win something. It's in my mind always. If I'm here, it's because I've got the confidence of the FA and because I think I can do it."
"For this reason, the World Cup experience was important [for me] to understand what I might change before the games we have to play in the finals in Poland and Ukraine. I want to change something, and I will change something."
It is hard to escape the feeling that the likes of Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs are in the squad as a concession to those who want to see a whole new generation given a chance – regardless of whether it is ready or not. Before the World Cup, Capello would respond to questions about England's next generation with barely concealed derision at the presumption any of them might be up to it.
Yesterday he promised to "do something different". "We will play Wilshere, who I want to see, and Gibbs – 100 per cent," Capello said. "I think they'll play the second half because the first half won't be easy. I expect that [booing]. I hope it will pass after a short time because the crowd have to help us."
Whether Wilshere and Gibbs are seriously expected to be part of the Euro 2012 campaign – or for that matter Carlton Cole, Darren Bent, Bobby Zamora and Gary Cahill – is by no means clear. Capello has realised that, for tomorrow night at least, he cannot serve up the same old fare so he has changed a few of the names in the knowledge that not even the biggest cynics in the Wembley crowd will boo Wilshere.
Those who think that Capello is unused to accommodating swings in public opinion should remember that he was a loyal servant of Silvio Berlusconi, the owner of Milan who gave Capello his first major job as a coach. Capello is well aware that sometimes concessions have to be made to negotiate a tricky situation and tomorrow night is certainly that.
Once we move on to the qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland next month, then we will see the real identity of Capello's team for the next two years. The likelihood is that it will not be that much different from the one that failed so badly this summer although, Capello will hope, not as prone to failure at the crucial moment.
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