Fabio Capello: More crewcut than haute coiffure

December 14, 2007

Fabio Capello is not the ideal manager for the England football team (for a start he is not English, is not a fluent English speaker and is not famed for playing the beautiful game), but he is quite categorically the right man for the FA to put their faith in at this time. In the current circumstances he is as ideal as we are going to get.

I have had my doom and gloom binge in the immediate aftermath of England’s bungled and calamitous failure to qualify for Euro 2008 and the inevitable departure of Steve McClaren. It is still true that only by making a spectacularly good choice of new England manager can there be any hope of averting the descent into footballing oblivion I alluded to in my earlier post. Thankfully, Capello is the right choice, the ray of hope to pierce my despondency.

Capello is the kind of manager to turn to when you’re in a bind. If your overpaid, decadent, under-motivated, arrogant Golden Generation is not performing, you need Fabio Capello to come in and sort them out. Language is not a problem. He doesn’t need anyone to translate “prima donna” for him.

Don’t expect much on the style front. But you can expect results.

Twice Real Madrid have called on Capello as their Mr Fix It in times of dire decline. The first time in 1996 and again in 2006. On the latter occasion his challenge was to arrest the downward spiral caused by Real’s over-reliance on their ageing and underperforming Galacticos, the “untouchables” past their sell-by dates who needed a good kick up their pants or just a kick out the door. Capello won La Liga at the first time of asking (as he had done in 1996/7) and was again rewarded with his P45.

Fabio Capello

Real see him as the man to stop the rot, clear out the chaff, bring back self-belief, get results when only results matter. They don’t see him as the man to produce the sort of football they want to watch. Capello (incidentally the Italian word for “hair”) is more crewcut than haute coiffure. Once the emergency repair is done they’ll find someone else to inject the style the fans demand. Dear Fabio can busy himself elsewhere until the club goes off the rails again.

And busy himself he will, with the England team. Real’s loss, our gain.

Kudos to the FA for keeping their heads down, their mouths shut and getting on with the job. No bungling, this time. No farcical leaks, ill-judged approaches or embarrassing public rebuffs.

Rather less kudos to the media. No sooner had McClaren been given his marching orders than Fabio thrust his arm up in the air and said “I want the job! I can do it for you!” And the response of the British media? “Oh, apparently this Capello bloke wants the job, but never mind, lets look at the wider field of possible candidates. Which English managers might be an option this time? And wouldn’t it be great if Mourinho took the job?”

Mourinho is the darling of the British press. Far less qualified in terms of track record than Capello, but far higher profile here and his antics have captured the imagination of many. I really could not see Mourinho as England manager. Thank heavens he turned it down.

So the arrival of Capello has lifted my gloom a little, but there are still some unanswered questions:

Is he a short term fix?

Obviously he will sign up for an extended contract, but then so did Steve McClaren. The question remains: are we (or should we be) looking to him the way Real Madrid are apt to, as a short-term troubleshooter? Will we enjoy the upturn in our fortunes but tire of his brand of football after a while?

Will Capello play “British football”?

The raw materials are different. English players are used to football at break-neck pace, not the measured possession football more characteristic of the continent. Capello will want discipline, strong defence, effective marking, control of the ball on the pitch. Can our players play that way, or can he find English players with the qualities he needs? Will he retain any of those elements of British football which mark us out and sometimes discomfort the opposition, for all their silky passing skills?

Will Capello’s methods translate to the International arena?

Capello’s method is based on discipline, on hard work, on doing it his way. He does not suffer fools or wise guys.

He can establish his tough regime when he is installed at a club and has hands on influence over everything, every day. Can that still work when he only has the players for a week here and a week there? Will they go back to their clubs in between times and revert? How will Capello’s football ethic be sustained?

I don’t know the answers but Capello will work it out. He is an intelligent and supremely confident man. A winner.

Not only that, but a winner who actively wants the job. He does not fear the reputational damage of an ignominious exit such as McClaren’s. The notion of failure does not come into it. He is not so young any more, and has only success on the International stage left to crown a peerless career in football.

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  1. I think Capello was a good choice because he is a very experienced no nonsense manager. Nice article. Thanks

  2. Well, the last sentence of my post is confirmed (in the same words) by the man himself.

  3. Brian Barwick and the Football Association have learned from past mistakes. They also had the benefit of a number of fortunate circumstances:

    (1) No time pressure – no competitive matches for ages (thanks to their earlier failed managerial appointment)

    (2) The press’s favourite, Mourinho, raised his hand half-heartedly then dived for cover

    (3) The best man for the job was out of work and actively volunteered his services

    Given all that the FA found it easier than usual to avoid haplessness

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