As the head of the team, the coach is accountable. When a team under-performs, as England did in this summer’s World Cup, then questions are asked and fingers are pointed. As soon as England were dumped out against Germany, people were calling for Capello’s head, claiming he was too much of a disciplinarian and that his over-controlling system was paralysing the players with fear of mistakes. While some of this may be true, and certainly the coach or manager of a team must take a huge load of the flack, Capello was not the sole reason for England’s failure in South Africa, and should not be made the scape goat.
The English media will not let Fabio Capello forget what happened this summer – regardless of the fact that constant reminders will hinder the rebuilding process – and it is something that will be raised at every possible opportunity. Within a month in the press, Capello went from England’s saviour to their downfall. England’s array of highly paid superstars severely underperformed and there was a witch-hunt to try and discover the reason. Fatigue was muted as a possible reason but that didn’t explain why other players and nations who had also had long, hard seasons managed to perform better. What was different about England? The apparent answer? Capello’s ruling fist. Previously considered a refreshing change to Steve McClaren calling everyone Wazza, Stevie and JT and pretending to be everyone’s best mate, Capello’s strict policies regarding almost all the player’s behaviour was now suddenly a big problem. Players should be allowed to ‘go and have a beer’, not be cooped up in hotel rooms.
In truth, England’s preparation and build up to the tournament was virtually perfect. There were injuries to the likes of Rio Ferdinand, but in terms of training, conditioning, and their base in South Africa, it was as good as it has ever been. There were also effectively the same players on the pitch that had got the team there in the first place. But as much as a manager picks and shapes his team, and alters players and systems during the course of a match, he cannot account for players simply not performing. Fabio Capello can do nothing about Wayne Rooney not being able to control a pass, or John Terry not knowing where to position himself from a goal-kick, or Rob Green not being able to catch a ball with his hands.
Along with the tournament’s passing, the latest England squad and now Capello’s comments about no longer wanting to pick David Beckham, the media is constantly trying to quench its thirst for the next Capello sound bite that will make him look either disrespectful, naïve or incompetent. Rather than analysing what were dreadful performances by the players, and sympathising with what Capello had to deal with, there has become this obsession with trying to put the man down. Capello is still one of the world’s best managers, that fact has not changed, and so the last thing the media should be trying to do is drive him out. Yes there should be answers from Capello, and yes he underperformed also, but he is only a figurehead of what is a pretty disastrous set-up in terms of player development and club v country politics. There are few managers in the world as good as Capello and so rather than make him the media scapegoat, perhaps we should lower our expectations somewhat and get behind him, rather than set out to destroy him.
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