England disarray as Capello departs
LONDON -- Another fine mess for the national team. "CAPELLO QUITS OVER RACE ROW AS JURY CLEARS REDKNAPP." The
The tabloid press is reeling like a dumped lover annoyed to have been beaten to the punch, at the moment. Capello's decision, four months ahead of the European Championship finals, is being treated by several papers as a disgraceful abandonment, despite the fact that in the days preceding it the newsstands resembled shop fronts on Black Friday: great big capital letters declaring that he MUST GO! for having last weekend told the Italian television company RAI that he did not think it fair that Terry had been stood down as captain before being tried by law.
Questions have been asked about Capello's motive in resigning, which he says he was forced in to because of the damage done to his authority. It seems out of character for someone who has previously managed at distinctly hierarchical clubs such as AC Milan (during Silvio Berlusconi's first and not-exactly-hands-off reign) and Real Madrid without this kind of argument. It is also wildly out of kilter with Capello's stance on captaincy since being appointed England manager in 2008. The last time Terry was relieved of his duties, when news of his alleged affair with teammate Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend broke almost exactly two years ago, it was Capello's own decision, and one he seemed keen to make known had been made simply to keep the peace.
"To me, being a leader is more important than being the captain," he said at the time. "[Terry] will be a leader without wearing the armband." Perhaps we should have realized that his feelings about the armband's importance had changed when he reinstalled Terry as captain last year, declaring "one year's punishment is enough," but it is still a little hard to believe that he resigned his post simply because John Terry will not get to snap a band of elastic around his shirt sleeve in June, or because he did not have the final say. You could even argue that in making the decision itself, the FA addressed the potential for conflict in the dressing room and enabled Capello to protect his relationship with Terry.
It is important that the FA does not come out of this with too much credit, however, because it has fudged the issue. In 2000 it was decisive: Leeds United players Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were not to be considered for England duty until they had been tried for affray and grievous bodily harm with intent, and when Woodgate was found guilty of the former, less serious offense in 2001, the FA did not restore his eligibility until after the 2002 World Cup. It scoffed at the suggestion that Bowyer -- at the time a star of Leeds' living-the-dream team -- might want some sort of recompense for the matches he had been forced to miss before being cleared of both charges.
This time around the FA dithered, opting to wait for the outcome of the trial -- letting Terry remain available for this month's friendly against Holland in the meantime -- but was panicked when the court date was moved back to July. Chelsea had requested that the case be heard after the season's end so that Terry, who remains captain at Stamford Bridge, could concentrate on his club commitments, which may go some way to explaining why Terry did not offer to stand down in order to avoid compromising anybody in the England camp. Ultimately, however, if the FA had been consistent with its own precedents, it would not have needed such magnanimity from so unlikely a source.
As well as bidding Capello farewell, the papers have busied themselves with campaigning for Redknapp to take over (impressively,
There is a slight danger, though, that in the frothy excitement of imagining what Redknapp might be able to achieve (even if given charge of the England team for this summer only), we'll forget what we were asking for after the World Cup in 2010. Then, I was not alone in
The England U-21 and GB Olympic coach has been placed in interim charge for the Holland game and has served as something of an apprentice to Capello over the past few years. He was a popular England captain, but the fact that stories of an alleged racist incident involving Paul Ince from almost 20 years ago have been dragged up suggests he does not share the same support as Redknapp.
When the FA chairman David Bernstein said that "We want someone who can inspire the team, and inspire the nation, but he does not have to be English," it seemed to be a finger in O'Neill's direction, but the Sunderland manager was quick to rule himself out of contention. Having been overlooked in favor of Steve McClaren in 2006, you can't blame him.
Has been linked with the England job and with replacing Redknapp at Spurs, but says he is happy at Newcastle and that's easy to believe -- he's already done fantastically well to reverse public opinion of him. If he were to be made England manager, he would not get the kind of reception he go on arrival at St James' Park, but he would most likely be considered one of the inferior candidates.
Had the FA accepted Capello's offer to leave after the World Cup in 2010, there is almost no doubt that Hodgson - freshly appointed as Liverpool manager having led Fulham to the Europa League final -- would have been in the frame. His candidacy is rather less credible now.
Manager of the England women's team with a no-nonsense attitude and a reputation for bringing young players through. No, I don't imagine so, either.