The immediate responses on my Facebook feed weren’t exactly supportive of Capello – he’s ‘a useless Italian 4 eyed failure anyways!’ being a typical response to the news.
In his first spell at Milan Capello won Serie A four years from five, three of those cup doubles, and won the Champions’ League. In two seperate spells at Real Madrid he has won the league, only to be dismissed the following summer. He won the league and cup double with Roma, and two Scuddetos with Juventus (albeit revoked following the Calciopoli scandal).#]
There’s a pretty clear pattern across his managerial career – Capello wins. It’s what he does, probably better than any other manager in the modern era. (Jose Mourinho has had longer spells between titles, Ferguson has only twice started from scratch and went on to build a league winning team).
He’s been criticised as a negative coach, and, for the most part, that’s been true. He doesn’t seem to draw much of a distinction between creative, entertaining football and negative, boring football. His first Real Madrid team and his Roma team both drew plaudits for their style as well as their efficiency so he’s capable of constructing those teams, but has largely chosen not to. He’s simply set his teams up to play in the manner he believes will maximise the chances of success, and generally succeeded.
Capello wins. It’s what he does. With Roma and his Milan teams careful dismantling of the Barcelona ‘dream team’ in the ’94 Champions League final, he’s proven he can win things with teams who are slight underdogs, which is what England should be at worst. It’s easy to say that the current England team aren’t good enough to win but that appeared to be the case with his 2007 Real Madrid team as well, but they kept grinding out wins, right until they fell across the finish line as shambolic victors.
England have struggled to play the ball retention game Capello wants, but it has developed, albeit very gradually. As a sign of what Capello was up against, in his early games the side were booed for passing the ball sideways and looking for openings rather than going directly for goal.
Although it’s fashionable to describe the Barcelona – Spain style of ball retention as ‘the right way’ to play football, when it’s done without the immediate end product (which is inevitable when it’s being introduced as a new system) the fans are hostile to it. Over time, fan hostility thawed a little, and the players developed into Capello’s more patient way of playing. The quality isn’t anywhere near that of Spain (or probably even Swansea) but considering the players have been playing for their national team in a different style to their club teams, it’s not been too bad.
Yes, the World Cup 2010 team was ludicrously nervy and fearful. But Capello probably thought he was working with stronger psychological materials than he was, and may well have had a plan to counter this for the summer. The England job is referred to as ‘the impossible job’, and it’s largely the psychology of the nation – players, fans and media – that makes it so hard. The forty-six years without a major trophy obviously presents a psychological pressure, which is unavoidable.
Players are routinely built up and knocked down by the tabloids and fans – we’re told that the Premier League is the best in the world as if it’s a fact, and a large proportion of fans take it as gospel that the players they see regularly are better than foreign-based players they’re not familiar with.
We praise workrate more than creativity and innovation – the near deification of John Terry, a good but not great reader of the game who needs to put in dramatic last ditch tackles to cover for flawed positioning – being a good example of this. Players seem to think, going into tournaments, that the trophy can be lifted through sheer force of will.
Add in the fact that the media (particularly the tabloids but not limited to them) pursue a ‘good story’ – a dramatic one – over the nuanced truth, and it’s hard to prevent players feeling excessively confident or fearful.
None of these problems are insurmountable, and Capello has, in my opinion at least, done a pretty good job, in part by simply ignoring the manic depressive attention seeking of Fleet Street.
By making the decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy, apparently without consulting Capello, the FA undermined their manager’s authority. I don’t like Terry and think his leadership skills are a little overrated. I’d prefer Scott Parker or, if fit, Rio Ferdinand, but apparently Terry was Capello’s choice as captain.
If the FA decide they want to change the captain, play a different tactical system or bring back David Beckham, tough. It’s not their job. Capello’s role was undermined, and he felt he couldn’t continue.
John Terry was stripped of the captaincy, for the same reasons Steve McClaren was announced as the incoming manager ahead of the 2006 World Cup, to avoid media distractions.
It’s remarkable how much of a talent the FA have for doing the exact opposite of what they intend.