Capello’s Resignation an Ignominious End to ‘Golden Generation’

A comment on Fabio Capello’s misrepresented legacy as England manager…

Fabio Capello’s 4 year reign as England manager came to an ignominious end this week as he handed in his resignation amidst the furore of the FA stripping John Terry of the captaincy. The Italian’s departure leaves England in a precarious position just 4 months before the start of the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

His criticism of the FA’s decision, aired live on Italian television, left him with nowhere to go; his defiance and refusal to submit to his employers left his position almost untenable.

His reign as manager has been heavily scrutinized, and rather unfairly he has been regarded as an expensive failure. A glance at the bare statistics suggests otherwise; a win percentage of 66.7% shows him to be England’s most successful post-war manager, whilst he has presided over a 9-match unbeaten run, which included an undefeated 2011.

During qualification for the 2010 World Cup Capello had transformed England into potential world-beaters; their emphatic 5-1 victory over Croatia at Wembley in September 2009 was arguably the most complete England performance since the 4-1 hammering of the Netherlands at Euro 96.

It is to be hoped that Capello’s distinguished managerial career is not now remembered for his failure to motivate an underwhelming England side at the 2010 World Cup. The Italian is an exceptional club manager, having won 7 Serie A titles, 2 La Liga’s and a Champions League, but the transition to international management proved problematic, as did adjustment to English culture.

Capello will likely be remembered for his authoritarian style of management, something which backfired spectacularly at the World Cup, a tactical naivety which left England’s midfield overrun in their 4-1 defeat to Germany in South Africa and his questionable communication skills, characterized by his failure to pick up the English language.

Stuart Pearce has been handed the job temporarily and will preside over the friendly against the Dutch at Wembley before the end of this month yet his candidacy should not be seriously considered. He has already stated that it is too soon for him but at the same time is he even good enough? No one will question his determination and desire, but his spell in charge of the England Under-21s has been underwhelming, whilst few at Manchester City remember his soporific 2 year spell there very fondly.

It would be foolish of Harry Redknapp to abandon the impressive turnaround he has overseen at Tottenham, but the allure of being national manager will surely prove too difficult for him to reject, presuming that the FA do approach him.

Redknapp must be aware that taking the opportunity to manage his country could jeopardize both his relationship with the media and the managerial image that he has cultivated, as it has with Steve McClaren and Graham Taylor before him. It has become the most thankless job in world football, the media expectation and subsequent condemnation has generated a ‘poisoned chalice’ nature and built up such intense pressure that was previously only synonymous with the Brazil manager’s job.

Luiz Felipe Scolari famously rejected the chance to manage England claiming that it would bring excessive media intrusion into his life; that this came from someone who had masterminded a World Cup victory for Brazil is symptomatic of the problem.

Tottenham fans will bemoan their luck if Redknapp jumped ship, but they should be heartened at the legacy he would leave behind. Champions League football next season almost looks a certainty, whilst they possess an extremely talented squad brimming with adventure and confidence – Bale, van der Vaart, Modric to name just a few. With rather comfortable financial resources Spurs look more than a decent proposition for any top manager around at the moment who could potentially take them on to another level.

The FA must focus their search not just on the imminent Euros, but in preparation for future World Cups as well, to build a legacy, akin to that which Joachim Low has been afforded with Germany. Troublingly there is a dearth of dynamic, young managers around, be they English or foreign, who would relish the opportunity to manage England, and so the cycle of sackings and resignations is likely to continue.

Capello’s exit highlights how the demands of the England job have changed, it seems nowadays to be more about cultivating positive PR; the relative success of Capello, and previously Sven-Goran Eriksson, is largely overlooked because they lacked media-savvy.

The failure of a highly successful club manager to galvanize a crop of world-class international footballers reinforces the notion that the job has become a ‘poisoned chalice’; what chance does Redknapp have with just one major trophy to his name in 30 years of management?

Most disappointingly for the FA it isn’t obvious what legacy Fabio Capello has left behind; a shambles of a World Cup, an inability to escape inertia at Wembley. At £6million a year, it is not much of a legacy. Not an expensive failure, but an expensive shot at delivering glory before the Golden Generation faded; the potential exhibited before the World Cup and in the last year will remain unfulfilled.

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