Vote: Has anything changed under Fabio Capello?
Old Italian gent has failed to live up to his fanfare thus far
Last December, we all thought that England had hired a winner. The mood across the nation stood in stark contrast to the underwhelmed vibe that followed the appointment of a man who guided Middlesbrough to 14th in his final Premier League season. In Fabio Capello, England were getting a manager who had won titles in his last three seasons – two of which have since been revoked – and who had been a champion at every club he had managed. Not only that but he was a disciplinarian too. Someone who would do what was best for the team rather than catering for his stars.
Everything was going to plan at first. Capello was taking the job so seriously that he left David Beckham out of the squad for a friendly against Switzerland, a nothing game where Goldenballs was supposed to win his 100th cap, because he wasn’t fit enough. He dropped Michael Owen from the starting line-up and played previous outcast Matthew Upson in defence.
But gradually warning signs became apparent. Despite having already given David James two full games, he decided to give Joe Hart just 45 minutes in the summer games against USA and Trinidad and Tobago. John Terry was given the captain’s armband just days after crying on the pitch in Moscow, a decision that seemed far too sympathetic coming from a man who supposedly works with his head rather than his heart. Ashley Young, the only Englishman outside the Big Four to make the PFA Team of the Year, only played 33 minutes.
This week has been the clearest example yet though that nothing has changed. The expected appointment of Rio Ferdinand as captain was supposed to be the symbolic gesture that passion and tenacity wasn’t enough, and the country would instead be led by a cultured footballer who plays in a calm, composed manner. But Terry was kept on as captain.
The team sheet for Capello’s final friendly, his final chance to experiment before the World Cup Qualifiers, was even more depressing. Joe Cole, England’s most creative player, and Stewart Downing, one of the most in-form players in the country, were both left out to accommodate Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, just as Sven Goran Eriksson and McClaren constantly tried (and failed) to do. Capello also kept James in goal rather than take the opportunity to try someone else out in preparation for the Portsmouth keeper’s inevitable retirement within the next few years.
England always draw friendlies but the nature of this one made matters worse. To be outplayed and outclassed by a team who looked ordinary at Euro 2008 and were missing main goal threat Jan Koller was bad enough, but having Milan Baros score his first goal of 2008 by embarrassing the England captain made matters worse. It was also significant that it was left to the overlooked Cole to spare some of the humiliation.
So has anything changed? Is a fortuitous draw with the Czech Republic really any improvement on a narrow defeat to a classy Croatia team? Is Capello right to continue trying to accommodate Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham at the expense of in-form guys like Downing and Young? Is it too early to judge or should we wait until the qualifiers with Andorra and Croatia before being so critical?
Let us know with a vote and comment below.