Sam Wallace: That sinking feeling is back as Capello breaks his own rules on eve of biggest test

Talking Football: It was a simple enough task... just tell the world he will be in chargecome the Euro 2012 qualifiers. But Capello, it seems, is keeping his options open
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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson did not come up with many salty one-liners in his time as England manager – not in his public life, anyway – but the one that accompanied the announcement of his impending departure was an exception.

"I was asked to win the World Cup," he said, "and then was asked to look after my life after that."

It was a nicely understated way of saying "the bastards have sacked me". Eriksson was pointed towards the door in January 2006, before his team were to play in the World Cup in Germany. The decision was made in an attempt to impose some order on the chaos that had engulfed the Football Association in the wake of the News of the World's fake sheikh sting on Eriksson.

Eriksson was at his lowest ebb. By then he was a figure of fun, who had been caught out making indiscreet remarks about his players and corruption in the game, and the FA wanted him out the door after the World Cup. The then FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, regarded it as the chance to seize control; although he had not reckoned upon the Luiz Felipe Scolari pantomime that was to follow.

The England management and the FA have a history of uncertainty befalling the team on the eve of major finals and on Saturday there was that old gnawing in the stomach of here-we-bloody-well-go-again.

The drip-drip effect of Internazionale's interest in Fabio Capello and his telling refusal to put it to bed in his press conference before yesterday's game against Japan left you with that sinking feeling.

For those left holding the fort at the FA after the departure of the chairman, Lord Triesman, and chief executive, Ian Watmore, there is sympathy. The organisation has been left exposed at a critical time. For Capello, there is rather less.

One of the principal rules of his squad this summer was that there was to be no discussion of transfers and no England players involved in negotiations.

In reality, no one can stop Steven Gerrard and James Milner getting on the phone to their agents in their hotel rooms, but it was preferable to the open house that Eriksson ran at Euro 2004, when Jose Mourinho turned up to meet his new Chelsea players.

On Saturday, however, Capello broke his own rules. In the double-speak world of transfers and negotiation – where what is left unsaid is as important as what is said – Capello left so much up in the air about Inter that he can hardly have been surprised that we are starting to wonder whether he wants to stay.

It was a simple enough task. Just tell the world that he will be in charge of England come the first Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria in September. But Capello, it seems, is keeping his options open and, with the chaos at the FA around Triesman, that is not proving too difficult to do.

The FA did its best to get control of the situation yesterday by launching a new Club England board to leave Capello in no doubt who runs the England team, and the board's new chairman, Sir Dave Richards, was due to meet the Italian last night. The FA has had no choice other than to dance to Capello's tune – which is not how it should be on the eve of a World Cup.

Those who believe that Capello is too enraptured with life in London to leave or too old to consider another move should take a look at his track record.

He walked out of Roma in 2004 without a glance over his shoulder to join Juventus, a club with whom he had previously been locked in some of his most bitter battles.

When they hit the skids over the Luciano Moggi Calciopoli scandal two years later he was on his way to Real Madrid without remorse.

As far as Inter goes, there is unfinished business with Capello. According to experts on Italian football, Massimo Moratti, the Inter president, has tried to sign Capello on four occasions, most notably in 2004 when he changed his mind and appointed Roberto Mancini.

For a man who has set remarkably high standards in almost two and a half years as England manager, the last three weeks have not been among Capello's best.

Starting with the skewed judgement he displayed in launching the ill-starred "Capello Index" on 10 May and continuing with what seemed a rather ad hoc decision on his 30-man squad – with last-minute calls to Paul Scholes – he has looked shaky.

Now, there is the flirtation with Inter, which could have been nipped in the bud on Saturday but looks like it will rumble on, with Capello seemingly quite enjoying the attention.

We are still a long way from grainy video footage of Capello opening his heart to a phoney billionaire in hired robes but suddenly life with the England team does not feel as secure.

That is not to say that England teams have always done badly at tournaments with managers who are due to leave afterwards. At the 1990 World Cup finals with the late Sir Bobby Robson and at Euro 1996 with Terry Venables, England reached the semi-finals under managers who had already agreed to quit as soon as the team was eliminated.

But those were different times with different characters. The chief features of the Capello England regime has been stability, consistency and, until recently, eminent good sense from a manager with a formidable track record. To switch styles now to a regime flying by the seat of its pants and potentially out the door in July would risk wrecking the whole party.

Next generation provides genuine reason to cheer

The progress of the England Under-17s to yesterday's European championship final against Spain is some of the best news in a long time.

It is great credit to the coach, John Peacock, but also to a crop of players who give us hope that the senior England team will be competitive at the next two World Cup finals, and beyond.

After all, this is the tournament that saw the emergence of Cesc Fabregas in 2003. In 2007 England lost to Spain in the final and from that team Victor Moses and Danny Rose have the brightest futures. This time round, the likes of Connor Wickham, Nathaniel Chalobah, Luke Garbutt and Josh McEachron look like the best in a while.

Beckham just the same old same old at Upton Park

You may remember the criticism that the former West Ham regime came in for from the new owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, for signing ageing players on long contracts that were expensive for the club to break.

Fast-forward six months and the new target for Sullivan, according to an interview he gave on Saturday, is that young prospect David Beckham, who always comes cheap at the price. Beckham, who is now 35 and – lest we forget – currently injured, is even older than Freddie Ljungberg was when he signed for West Ham aged 31.

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