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England players seeing red over Green

June 22, 2010

I go along with much of James Hamilton’s analysis of the current malaise in the England camp, leading to the abysmal showing against Algeria.

The key to it is clearly the awful and unsettling treatment of Robert Green. Like Hamilton, I saw Capello’s handling of the incident as nothing short of torture for the unfortunate keeper. Sure the mistake was criminal at this level and utterly inexplicable. But Capello should either have announced there and then that Green was being dropped or immediately given him his unequivocal backing.

Despite the seriousness of the error, the best option would have been to back him. How likely was Green to repeat the howler against Algeria or in any other match? How much better for morale to show the squad that he has faith in his players and will stand up for them, at least after a one-off mistake. Particularly bearing in mind how hard Green worked to atone for his error in his second half performance and the open, honest and brave way he spoke to the media after the game.


Instead, Capello heaped the pressure on poor Green by telling him he was on probation during training. This just dragged the whole episode out and put Green under intolerable scrutiny. No wonder he cracked, underperformed in training and had to be dropped. Worse than that, it sent a very unfortunate signal to the whole squad. It left them worrying that their coach was likely to disown them and hang them out to dry if they messed up even once during a match. Hardly a recipe for encouraging them to express themselves confidently on the pitch.

I also take on board Hamilton’s first point about Capello’s disciplinarian regime being tolerated during qualification but resented when it carried on into the World Cup finals themselves. But I think the players know Capello is that sort of a manager and was unlikely to suddenly turn blokey and become “one of the lads” on arrival in South Africa. They would have put up with the discipline if at least they could believe Capello was right behind them. But the treatment of Green after the USA match put paid to that.

What is happening in the England camp has its analogue with the French debacle which in fairness is far worse. The French squad have also reacted badly to what they perceive as unfair treatment of one of their number, in their case Nicolas Anelka, leading to a complete breakdown of relations between players and coach. There are differences. Domenech was already due to leave after the tournament so staying on the right side of him was less of a concern. And the French players have gone much further than their English counterparts, effectively going on strike. And with less cause. Anelka deserved to be sent packing and the players have a duty to their country which should have overriden their loyalty to any one team-mate. In contrast with the French players, the England team have too strong a sense of duty to their nation to engage in open revolt, but the effect on their morale is harder to shake off.

The French are a lost cause. Tant pis. As for England, well, in Capello’s shoes I would be apologising to both Green and the whole squad. He should be letting them know that he is there for them, aloof or not, and then getting on with the job.

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One comment

  1. Well either the bad feeling has been healed behind the scenes or the players have put their pride and duty first. Maybe a bit of both. Either way they put in a much more spirited performance in the third group game and booked a place in the last 16.

    And we have swiftly moved on from the abject despondency of a 0-0 against Algeria to salvation, redemption and a dream reborn following a 1-0 against Slovenia. And for want of sticking away just one more chance we failed to top the group and now face Germany in the next round.

    Can we please have some perspective? We did play much better against Slovenia but a 1-0 win against a small unfancied nation is hardly reason to go wild with rediscovered hope, except in contrast with the previous match.

    We played with far more energy, spirit and determination than against Algeria but failed to notch up a convincing score, nor was it a completely dominant anxiety-free performance. To win the World Cup we will need to be playing with complete comfort, assurance and self-belief and we are a long way from that. And the next game, against Germany, comes with a lot of historical baggage and psychological obstacles to overcome.

    England will really need to be leaving the Algeria debacle far behind them and genuinely going from strength to strength, mentally as well as physically, to make it to the quarters. But if they do get past Germany … that could be the confidence boost to take them all the way.



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