Now that the Football Association have backed Fabio Capello, rather than sacking him, it is counterproductive to continue the debate over whether he's the right manager for England. Lessons must be learned, but we have to look to the future and not get bogged down in the blame game.
It's up to Capello to look at the age of particular players, and how they're performing, then decide who he's going to keep and which new faces he's going to try. There's no need to be hasty and throw in a load of untried young players – that wouldn't be good for them or for England – but he should bring in a few at a time and see how they shape up.
The parallels with 1970 are instructive. Alf Ramsey knew when and how to ring the changes. Bobby Charlton and a handful of others never played for England again after we returned from Mexico. In the first match after that World Cup, we played East Germany at Wembley. There was a clamour for change but Alf gave only one new cap, and that was to Peter Shilton. However, I was interested to note that he gave a debut to no fewer than 10 players in the 12 months after those finals. Then, as now, we were starting a European Championship qualifying campaign in the autumn. For the first match, in Malta, he brought in four new caps, including Roy McFarland and Martin Chivers.
The goalkeeping position is one where we need to move on to the next generation. The Germany game should be David James's swan-song, though I didn't hold him culpable for more than one of their goals.
Some critics said he should have charged out when Miroslav Klose was running on to the keeper's long kick for the first goal. I feel he had a right to expect one of the centre-halves or full-backs to be covering the centre. It was too late for him to come out; that would have made it too easy for Klose. It was better to try to stand up and try to psyche him out.
But James will be pushing 42 by the time of Euro 2012. Joe Hart was probably the most consistent last season of the three keepers Capello took to South Africa and he has to start a game now, perhaps in the Hungary friendly next month. He came on leaps and bounds by virtue of playing regularly on loan at Birmingham City and having a manager, Alex McLeish, who believed in him.
Ben Foster has now joined up with Alex McLeish at Birmingham and I can see him benefiting in a similar way. He was playing terrifically for Manchester United but when he made a couple of errors, Sir Alex Ferguson dropped him straight away. I thought that was sad. Everyone makes mistakes. There's also Paul Robinson, who's only 30, which is no age for a keeper, and Capello ought to monitor the progress of the lad who did well in the Under-21 set-up, Scott Loach of Watford.
Talking of which, I look at the players Germany brought to the finals, with half a dozen of their Under-21 team from a year earlier. We played them in the final of that tournament and yet we had only one of our side, James Milner, in the World Cup squad.
Ryan Shawcross, the centre-back from Stoke City, is one young player I'd like to see given a chance. Once Rio Ferdinand pulled out, we were struggling for central defenders. Let's be frank, the support cast to John Terry wasn't great. Shawcross is raw but quick and dominant in the air.
Capello needs to look closely at players like him. He also has to be humble enough to look at himself. We don't know what was going on in that dressing room. We don't know whether there was disruption within the camp, or whether certain players didn't get on with him and he wasn't happy with particular individuals. But there are questions that we can answer. Why was he playing Steven Gerrard in the wrong place on the left of midfield in a 4-4-2, rather than in the centre, playing off Wayne Rooney in a 4-5-1? Did he place too much trust in Emile Heskey when Peter Crouch always looks a more likely scorer?
If it was based purely on Capello's tactics, then I'd have said: "Yes, he's got to go". But the way that some of the players performed, so far below their club standards, you can't necessarily hold the manager responsible. There comes a point when the players have to stand up and be counted. You can't blame him for Robert Green's mistake in the US game, or for Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany. They were massive turning points in the campaign.
The bottom line is that Capello has to do better in the European Championship or the FA must look elsewhere. But now that he's definitely staying, we need to look forward. As down as people are feeling now, it's potentially an exciting time.Reuse content