Beleaguered Capello beset by echoes of the McClaren era

Luckless, unloved, and with vital qualifying matches ahead, the England manager is suffering an injury nightmare – just like his predecessor. Sam Wallace reports

In the last two weeks of Steve McClaren's reign as England manager, the squad's injury problems became so overwhelming that the situation would almost have been comical had the team's situation not been so precarious.

The day that Fabio Capello's predecessor announced his squad for the final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia, Wayne Rooney injured himself tripping over an ice box while playing head tennis. John Terry's knee locked. Michael Owen strained a thigh in the warm-up game against Austria. Ashley Cole was injured. Rio Ferdinand was suspended. And all anyone remembers from that defeat at Wembley in November 2007 was McClaren's wretched brolly.

Capello has never shown much interest in what happened before he was England manager but now, at his lowest ebb, he might recognise some of the misfortune that afflicted McClaren almost three years ago. From the moment Capello's side beat Andorra in the first 2010 World Cup qualifier two years ago, the Italian has lived a charmed life until, that is, his side arrived in South Africa in May.

Since then he has learned that being a successful England manager does not just require a glittering career in club management and a single-minded approach to the job. You need luck too. And the injuries afflicting Capello's squad this week as he begins qualifying for Euro 2012 suggest that his luck is running dangerously low.

Like McClaren, Capello finds himself with huge injury problems in defence. When McClaren faced Croatia in that infamous 3-2 defeat on 21 November he had none of his first choice back four fit. Of Capello's current first choice defenders, he still has Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole at full-back although Cole's recent problems with an ankle injury have been severe enough that Kieran Gibbs has been steered away from the under-21s as cover in the senior squad.

McClaren was so low on centre-backs in November 2007 that he had to play Sol Campbell and Joleon Lescott as a partnership for the first time. On Friday against Bulgaria, and then Switzerland in four days' time, Capello must choose from Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka, Matthew Upson, Lescott and Gary Cahill. It is not the ideal set of options for an England manager in desperate need of a good result.

Jagielka has a bruised foot and although the Football Association think he will be able to train tomorrow, that is by no means certain. The five central defenders have just 35 caps between them, of which Upson has 21. He is currently part of a West Ham team who have lost all three games this season. Lescott, who is regarded by Capello as cover at right-back, is playing at left-back for Manchester City.

As the squad met yesterday afternoon at their headquarters, the Grove in Hertfordshire, Capello was without the kind of players upon whom he has had to rely in the past. There is no Frank Lampard, no Rio Ferdinand and no John Terry. That lack of experience will be felt more in defence acutely than anywhere else.

A chance for someone else to shine? Maybe, but Capello would not be picking Jagielka and Cahill if his more experienced alternatives had been available to him. There might have been an appetite for a new direction after the disappointment of the World Cup but Capello is inherently conservative and would rather go with what he knows with six valuable points at stake.

Another major injury concern is Peter Crouch, by far England's most reliable goalscorer when it comes to his strike rate per minutes on the pitch. The Tottenham man is struggling even to walk at the moment having ripped muscles in his back against Wigan on Saturday. Nevertheless he was part of the 24-man squad that reported for duty at the Grove last night.

The hope with Crouch is that he will be fit to play against Switzerland in Basle next week where his effectiveness away from home against physical opponents will be invaluable. He was virtually ignored by Capello during the World Cup and dropped for the squad to play Hungary earlier this month but he remains committed to England.

There are fewer problems in midfield although the England manager has chosen to overlook the claims of Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon, both of whom were exceptional when he watched them against Young Boys at White Hart Lane last week. Lennon is considered just too susceptible to an ongoing ankle problem and was left out of this squad despite ostensibly being fit

It is quite a fall from grace for a player who was among Capello's pre-World Cup favourites and was one of two right-wingers taken to South Africa instead of Theo Walcott, now firmly back in favour again. Lennon started the first two World Cup matches against the United States and Algeria before being dropped for the Slovenia game. Also missing from the squad to play Hungary, Capello seems to have lost faith in him.

More baffling is Capello's decision to pick Michael Carrick ahead of Huddlestone who has been one of the early season's star performers. Capello gave Huddlestone his England debut in November against Brazil and he has since developed into a fixture in Harry Redknapp's team.

By contrast Carrick has played just 16 minutes of Premier League football at Manchester United this season, as a substitute against West Ham on Saturday. His omission from the squad to play Hungary earlier in the month was because Capello thought he was injured. That proved an embarrassment when the player started in the Community Shield game against Chelsea.

Unused at the World Cup, Carrick is one player who never seems to inspire Capello. Picking Huddlestone was an opportunity to give a young player his chance but, under pressure, Capello has gone back to some very familiar faces. His squad had a light training session last night and will be in front of the cameras at Arsenal's London Colney headquarters this morning.

These are tough times for Capello and anything less than two wins in the next seven days will be regarded as another failing. Capello could argue that next Tuesday's opponents Switzerland are no pushover having beaten Spain in the first group match of the World Cup finals. But as McClaren found out three years ago, it is not the circumstances around games that an England manager is judged on – it is the results

35 caps between them England's centre-backs for the Euro 2012 qualifiers

Matthew Upson: Age: 31, Caps: 21, Club: West Ham

Phil Jagielka: Age: 28, Caps: 4, Club: Everton

Joleon Lescott: Age: 28, Caps: 9, Club: Man City

Michael Dawson: Age: 26, Caps: 1, Club: Tottenham

Gary Cahill: Age: 24, Caps: 0, Club: Bolton

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil