James Lawton: Capello has little to prove tonight – the players are the ones accused

It was the extent of Rooney's failure, and the surliness of his reaction to the complaints of the England fans, which sounded the loudest alarm bell

Fabio Capello is allegedly on trial at Wembley tonight but the truth, surely, is starkly different. If you could find a dock big enough, it would more properly be filled by the men who shape English football, both on and off the field.

Capello's reputation has been dragged progressively lower ever since England's implosion at the World Cup, a denouement made doubly shocking by the ease, even the authority, with which they qualified. Now at the start of the road to the European Championship finals, from which the England were excluded so wretchedly in 2008, it is possible to sense another rush to judgement, rather as you feel the first wisps of an impending hurricane.

If it happens, it should be called Hurricane Humbug.

A huge burden of responsibility has been placed on the Italian's shoulders, some of it valid, no doubt, but much of it ludicrous, and in the latter category not least is the refusal to accept quite how low has run the stock of credible, native-born candidates to replace such key figures as Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Frank Lampard in tonight's opener against Bulgaria.

Still, Capello goes to trial with all kinds of indictments pinned to a now well-grooved forehead, including the utterly absurd one that he did something more nefarious than state the blindingly obvious when saying that at 35, as he recovers from serious injury and is marooned in the second-rate Major League Soccer, David Beckham's international career is probably over.

Capello's body language will tonight be studied, microscopically and relentlessly, and heaven forbid he should even marginally fracture his syntax when reviewing a performance that isn't at least as spectacular as the 4-1 win in Zagreb which gave the drive to the World Cup such momentum.

The real issue, though, is not Capello's ability to organise a football team – he has been doing that with consummate proficiency ever since he retired as a player dedicated and professional enough to win four scudettos – three with Juventus, one with Milan – but whether the players in his charge can begin to dispel the grim impression that some of them have reputations which have been grossly inflated – and that others are simply just not good enough.

Inevitably, this brings us to Wayne Rooney. When Capello, on what must have been the bleakest night of his career as a coach, said that he just could not recognise some of the players who went through the motions in arguably England's worst-ever performance against Algeria in the group game in Cape Town, Rooney surely was at the forefront of his thoughts.

Rooney, who had carried so many hopes so iridescently before his injury in Munich in March, was more than a disappointment. He was, however temporarily, a walking manifestation of a failed football culture and it only got worse when the young German team applied the sword so effortlessly in Bloemfontein a week or so later.

Rooney, unquestionably, was Capello's best hope of fulfilling his promise to take England to the World Cup final, and it was the extent of the player's failure, and the surliness of his reaction to the complaints of the English fans that came mildly enough in the circumstances, which sounded the loudest alarm bell.

If Capello could not trust Rooney to perform, if he couldn't see him as a source of strength and fluency and sheer virtuosity that could tip the balance of any game, where could he reasonably turn? No other English player begins to offer the range of Rooney's talent or intuition. Steven Gerrard has spectacular qualities, but tactical coherence is not one of them, and so England were essentially lost.

But at £6m a year, asks an increasingly vociferous prosecution, should the coach not have been able to find a way? Could he not have kept the mood of the players sweeter, provided them with a little more day-to-day gratification in their remote training centre? Maybe he could have done that. Previous coaches did, even to the point of hauling along bouncy castles for the kids, but to what gain beyond another round of ultimately failed action?

No, it is not, when you get right down to it, Fabio Capello who has to provide the big answers tonight. For any coach there is a recurring question: can you produce a winning team? And for any interrogator, there is the same qualification to any answer: you give me the players of a basic quality, and I will give you some results.

Capello said that to Milan and produced four scudettos and the Champions League. He said it to Roma and backed it up with the league title. He said it to Juventus and delivered two titles without asking for the corrupt help which led to them being revoked. He won La Liga for Real Madrid twice at an interval of 10 years, the second time after swiftly turning the rabble known as Los Galacticos into a fighting unit.

This is not the record of a man easily scorned, a man whose impatience with some of the details of a national coach's job, he would argue, has never affected his ability to judge the development of a player and his ability to contribute to a team.

What players are contending for a place in the England team in these uncertain days? Perhaps players like Adam Johnson of Manchester City and Theo Walcott of Arsenal, young men who some thought might have made an impact in South Africa but who Capello decided had to make further progress before they were ready for such a challenge. Their time may have come now and certainly it was interesting to hear Walcott's emphatic theory that his exclusion from the World Cup was something that made him stop and think about where he was going.

Maybe Wayne Rooney will tonight suggest he too has been obliged to consider that question, and from a point much further down the road. This, certainly, seems a much more relevant line of enquiry as England, yet again attempt to remake themselves as a serious force.

Rooney, despite all his talent, has still much to prove. It is a charge, whatever the prosecution thinks, that doesn't stick so easily to Fabio Capello.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment