Let’s cast our minds back to that infamous rainy November night in 2007, as England’s so called ‘Golden Generation’ were brought crashing to the earth by the left boot of Mladen Petric.
There’s no escaping the fact that this was a real low in the history of our proud national team, as we failed to qualify for the finals of a major competition for the first time since USA 1994. It was to be Steve McClaren’s last act as England manager, in a less than successful spell as national team coach.
The Three Lions needed guidance from an experienced manager, a man who knew what it took to control star players, a man like Fabio Capello.
As CVs go, there aren’t many better than Capello’s. Titles in both Italy and Spain, as well as numerous Domestic and European Cup achievements with some of the world’s biggest clubs, were more than enough to suggest that the Italian was the right man to turn England’s talented under-achievers into world beaters.
Yet here we are in 2012, debating whether his tenure has been a successful one, a debate that has only one clear answer: yes.
Our expectations have led to a feeling that Capello has failed England, but looking at the statistics of his time in charge it’s difficult to back up this argument. During the 42 games in which the Italian has been at the helm, England have a win percentage of 66.7% (just over two thirds) as well as 16 clean sheets and an average of two goals per game, with losses coming against the likes of Germany, France, Spain, Brazil and away to the Ukraine. Not a bad record I think you’ll agree.
As a nation we always have an excuse. If it’s not injuries it’s WAGs, if it’s not WAGs it referees, we just cannot except that our side, from the land that gave birth to the beautiful game, can be beaten by ‘johnny foreigner’.
The latest disappointment came in South Africa, with defeat to the old enemy Germany. After struggling through the group stages, the media still felt that a victory over the Germans was not just a possibility, but a requirement, this despite the superior quality of their displays and squad.
This sums up the unbelievable ability of the British press to ignore all of the facts and hark back to the days of 1966, as if it were only last year. Other nations do not have the problem to the degree that we have, instead of criticising every disappointment and ingraining a sense of imminent failure, the media unite behind a cause spurring on their men, and focusing on the positive rather than the negative.
It is about time we woke up and realised just how far behind teams like Germany, Spain and Holland we are. No longer can we go to a tournament believing we have the right to progress to the later stages with ease, we need to realise our shortcomings.
Capello saw this and set the wheels in motion for change. Young talent was given the chance to shine, the 4-4-2 hallmark of the British abandoned for the more progressive 4-2-3-1 as well as numerous members of the old guard being phased out.
Whoever takes the poison chalice of England manager is in for a tough job. Although some would disagree, Capello’s are very big shoes to fill indeed.
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