James Corrigan: What exactly is the point of the 'great manager'?
The impossible job just got tougher but Capello must give 'golden generation' a last chance to shine
Sunday 04 July 2010
A good day to bury bad news or a bad day to bury good news? It depends on your viewpoint. All that can be said for certain is that the Football Association's totally coincidental decision to release their "Fabio stays" statement on the breathless Friday which featured two World Cup classics and a Briton contesting a semi-final at Wimbledon merely served to give briefest pause to the debate.
In truth, it will rage for months and, as ever, much of the bitterness will zero in on the finance. The many millions Capello would have lost if he had simply walked away, the many more millions the FA would have lost if they had made him walk away. Who says England football isn't all about the money nowadays?
Of course, that was not the tone with which the FA's "full backing" was issued. Capello is hell-bent on proving his status as one of the great managers again and, apparently, the FA are just as keen to let him act on the lessons he intimated he has learnt from a disastrous campaign.
Yes, everyone's entitled to a second chance. Particularly when there's no one suitable to replace him; particularly when those in charge don't want a supposed "governing" body to look yet more chaotic; particularly when there's a Machiavellian power struggle going on in which nobody wishes to be seen as the firer or hirer.
Therein lies the problem for Fabio as he begins this formidable rebuilding process. The cynicism will follow him, no matter how courageously he battles to shake it off or how deserving he is of the redemption. Regardless of a previously brilliant track record there is now a stigma attached to the Capello era. And with England stigmas tend to cling like creosote.
He will be reminded as much in a little over a month's time at Wembley. It is an absurd friendly against Hungary, coming as it does four days before the kick-off to the Premier League season. The appetite for England's international team will be next to nil – both from the fans who will scarcely populate the stadium or, it must be suspected, from the players who will be desperate to escape the stench of failure to start afresh with their clubs.
Yet through this pointless but pound-laden experience, Capello must stand tall, declaring: "I am still the man to lead you, to deliver your dreams." You don't need to have Mystic as a prefix to foresee the headlines should England walk away from that ghastly, irrelevant night with what will suddenly be termed a very relevant failure.
The slightest flaw will be leapt upon by a media which up until the last four weeks treated Capello like some sort of unquestionable deity. How his reputation will flip-flop. Whereby before it was all about "in Fabio we trust", now it will be "in Fabio we tire".
A narrow win against Bulgaria at home in the opening Euro 2012 qualifier in September would not be deemed good enough even though it probably should be. The same will be true if his new England dare to be satisfied with what in normal circumstances would be a satisfactory draw in Switzerland a few days later. It may seem like madness to Capello but the over-expectancy will actually increase because of the South African shambles. In many respects it will be an unequal struggle that Capello can only hope to survive if his England fare as impres-sively as they did in the last qualifiers.
Yet how likely is that? This bunch have shown how ineptly they handle negativity – and believe it, they already have plenty of the stuff to handle. The last week has seen them predictably characterised as a collection of prima donnas more interested in their Barbados villas than their nation's humiliation. It doesn't make any odds whether the abuse is fair or not. This is their lot until they prove otherwise.
Not that the ever-growing mass of the disaffected believe they should be allowed to prove otherwise. Capello has already vowed to take a firm brush to his squad. He should be careful in his promises as there will be a clamour to replace the old with the new and, as with all clamours, perspective will be shunted out of the window.
There has been much talk of the golden generation finally waving their worthless goodbyes. That was ridiculously premature. The next Euro finals remain easily in range for the majority of the team that lined up in Bloemfontein and any wholesale discarding would be as rash as it would be self-detrimental. Alas, there isn't a legion of brilliant foamy-mouthed wannabes awaiting their turn. Granted, there are a few promising types whom Capello will be wise to introduce. But as it stands the last squad will form the bulk of the next squad and that is not quite as bleak as it sounds.
Because these players are nowhere near as woeful as last Sunday's display screamed they are. It was presented as a par-for-the-course World Cup performance by England. It was no such thing. This was an aberration in a different X-rating to the merely disappointing quarter-final exits to Portugal (on penalties) in Germany or to eventual champions of Brazil in Japan. As always, the knee-jerk recrimination is futile and the energies should be concentrated on discovering why.
Naturally, the players must shoulder a sizeable portion of his blame. But so, too, must Capello; he really must. Seven days ago his side were shapeless and Capello was ineffectual in introducing any shape even when the evidence in front of him demanded he must. There are plenty who seek to excuse him the failings of his team. Yet how can they? How can they applaud him so wholeheartedly when his boys are getting it right and then absolve him so completely when they are getting it wrong?
Great managers are supposed to drag the best from their squad, aren't they? They are supposed to issue clearly defined roles and to foster the proper team harmony to ensure game-plans are followed by the collective and the individual. If they aren't, what exactly is the point of the great manager? What is the point of paying out £6m per annum for their services?
Of course, that is the price you can command from success. But just as apposite is the cost you pay for failure. Not for the FA now, but for Fabio. Does he really know what he is letting himself in for? The Impossible Job has just become tougher.
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