The Nick Townsend column: The 'Cap' may fit for now but the FA must look ahead

Putting an Englishman in the new coach's backroom staff would be an insult let the clubs take a chance instead
Click to follow
The Independent Football

So it's to be Fabio Capello. Not Steve Coppello, the name by which Reading's manager wryly reckoned he'd need to become known to have any chance of being offered the England job. Nor Curbs or Paul Jewell, and certainly not 'Arry or Big Sam, none of whose surnames suggest suitable lineage to bewitch the kingmakers.

The Football Association, having been spurned by their preferred contender, Jose Mourinho, with all the unwanted baggage that would have entailed for which the FA should be offering prayers have entrusted England's immediate future to the second choice of hired gun. Make no mistake about his specific mission here. No matter how the FA attempt to sell him to the sceptical, the Italian is the equivalent of a private equity firm; intent on rationalising and reorganising an underachieving business for short-term profit.

And what the hell, many will insist. At least triumph in South Africa 2010 can now be giddily contemplated, through spectacles probably manufactured by Italian firm Zerorh+, who sponsor Capello. A results-driven man for a glory-starved football nation. Even for the tabloids the appointment brooks no doubt. The FA have made the kind of offering that a voracious media demanded: an iconoclast, a character without peccadillo, but most importantly a multiple winner. Capello will simply translate his undoubted acumen in club football into elevating England's international stature.

Won't he? The scribes, who lay supine before a CV that bulges with the potency of what apparently lies underneath David Beckham's Armani underpants, say that this is the nation's collective desire. Success will cure all ills. All hail the FA's initiative in securing their man, even if some may ask how clever it was to appoint the first out-of-work bloke with a half-decent career record who wanted the job.

Yet his coming is providential for the FA, who can thrust a designer label, with a name that contains ladles full of Latin promise, in front of we observers who ridiculed them for adopting as England's coach a make-do-and-mend in Steve McClaren.

Capello arrives blessed with advantages that Sven Goran Eriksson, who provided the bridgehead for the concept of a foreign manager, and took the hammer blows of ridicule in the process, did not possess. At 61, with lugubrious features and a wife of 40 years, Laura, it is unlikely that he will emulate Eriksson's lothario profile.

But most crucially he is the son of an elite football nation the world champions, no less he boasts a myriad of medals, and he enjoys the benefit of time; to scrutinise, experiment, make mistakes and impose himself on the players' psyches. He has an ego-deflating demeanour, at least by repute, and adheres to the adage: "The team. Not the individual." He has shown himself a consistent victor at club level, but he may discover that it is very different for an international coach who only "borrows" the players from time to time.

Some caution should be exercised before deciding that Capello is the panacea. Two questions he must be pondering himself are these: what is the qualityof the resources at his disposal? Are those who are lionised when performing for their clubs capable of being converted into world-class performers on the international stage? That exhibition against Croatia at Wembley can only have cast profound doubts. He talks much of his role being that of a "psychiatrist" as much as a tactician, but if technique is as deficient as many of usbelieve, he will need to bring his wand as well as his wisdom.

Yet even if Capello leads his adopted country to World Cup distinction in 2010, this is not a man to set in place systems intended to enhance England's long-term future. The planned placement of an Englishman in the backroom staff is no more than a sop, and a further insult to a public already aghast at the largesse of the FA in accommodating the demands of the new coach and his four-strong entour-age of countrymen. The FA's communications chief, Adrian Bevington, says we should not get "too hung up" on the meagreEnglish presence. That's all right, then. The Cap may fit, for now, but it is as much a humiliation that this nation is unable to identify a suitable English or at the very least, British head coach as it was to witness them exit the European Championship.

Any of the British Premier League managers would surely make a better fist of things than McClaren, but the fact is that the majority have made their name by hewing excellence from modest material. While they elicit admiring glances, they have not, like Capello, extracted the optimum from the rarest resources. If a "Big Four" manager was English and could be persuaded to do the job it would invite no argument. There is no likelihood of that in the foreseeable future.

An Englishman just needs the chance, they cry. But they won't be issued with that opportunity until a fellow-countryman has succeeded. The circle of exclusion continues. The fact that the last English manager to win the title was Howard Wilkinson with Leeds in 1992 should shame the English game which, for too long, persisted with the theory that top coaches are born of ex-internationals who fancy having a go.

Arsne Wenger, Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho debunked that myth. So have several former England internationals, in the negative sense. Yet though potential does exist among the home ranks, for too many club chairmen and owners the words "foreign coach" correlate with "sexy". Someone needs the courage to demonstrate that it ain't necessarily so. The FA may have acquired the "best"; whether Capello is in English football's long-term best interests remains to be discovered.