Kevin Keegan was the England football coach who had the courage to admit that he wasn't up to the job. Fabio Capello is the England football coach whose confidence in his ability to transform the team's fortunes was manifest even as he revealed that he couldn't speak the same language as the players.
Thus, Keegan belonged to a past that England fans would prefer to forget about, Capello to a present that has got them dreaming once again. One was yesterday's man, the other very much today's.
But in football, it seems, no assumption is ever safe. Out of nowhere, a storm has blown up over Capello's financial affairs that threatens to blow his stewardship of the England side alarmingly off course, at precisely the moment that Keegan is re-emerging into the sunlit uplands as the manager – for the second time around – of Newcastle United. A week ago, neither prospect was remotely imaginable.
A little over a month into the job, before he has so much as selected a squad, let alone seen the team lose a match thanks to a bizarre last-minute own goal, Capello finds himself having to reassure the Football Association that he will come through a tax investigation by the Italian authorities with his reputation unscathed. These are not the circumstances in which England would wish to be embarking upon a new era.
The mood on Tyneside could hardly provide a starker contrast. While Capello's role as saviour is already tarnished, Keegan's lustre is restored.
Very soon, of course, it may all be different again. In the meantime, good luck to both men.