I knew it wouldn’t be long since I started the ‘WWTT?’ blogs for another opportunity to present itself, but I wasn’t expecting England’s Football Association – and Fabio Capello in particular – to be provide the material. Not this time, anyway.
The F.A. has had its moments in the past, with some questionable choices over its national coach, its handling of various sex scandals at head office and its ways of funding the escalating costs of the new Wembley Stadium (I won’t even mention the pitch). However, since the appointment of Capello as head coach and the increasing responsibilities given to Sir Trevor Brooking in a top position, everything seems to have been running smoothly at H.Q. with a genuine optimism about England’s World Cup chances in 2010 – as well as the bid to bring the tournament home in 2018.
Capello’s no-nonsense handling of the John Terry captaincy, his discipline within the squad, his banning of mobile phones in the dressing room, have all played a part in England’s smooth qualification process, as well as establishing strong respect from players and media alike.
So, with just a month to go before the big kick-off in South Africa, all eyes were on Capello’s provisional 30-man squad announcement when the Italian himself dropped his first clanger as England manager: The Capello Index.
What a bombshell. As soon as I saw the headlines, I had to ask myself: What on earth was he thinking?
Having ignored the advice of the F.A., the Capello Index was intended to be a website running throughout the World Cup in which players of all countries would be rated by the man himself within hours of completing their match – including England’s players – all with a view to aiding on-line gamblers. The betting issues aside, this would have had a massive impact on his relationship with his own players. It’s one thing for them to read their ratings in a tabloid, but a completely different animal if it comes from your coach, and especially in the game’s biggest tournament.
After a lavish press launch, Capello was forced to drop his plans the following day with the F.A. finally deciding to step in. Better late than never, but the press already had their first chink in Capello’s previously impenetrable armour, and a perfect chance to start the pre-World Cup negativity that the papers dwell so well on here in England (just look at what they’ve done to Lord Triesman – see below).
And then there was the squad announcement. Now, Capello has always been a man of his word, only picking players who are fit and in-form, with no place for sentiment in his teams. He has been true to that word throughout his two years in charge, so it came as a huge surprise to see Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher back from his self-imposed international wilderness having spat the dummy out three years ago because he wasn’t getting the chances under Steve McClaren. This the same Carragher who, after missing a penalty in the last World Cup defeat against Portugal, wrote in his autobiography “I would rather miss for England than for LFC,” and added: “Defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club. I wasn’t uncaring or indifferent, I simply didn’t put England’s fortunes at the top of my priority list.” Even now, he has admitted that he considered a return to international duty because Liverpool won’t playing in the Champions League next year and that he won’t have many more chances to play in a big tournament.
And not only that, Capello was also trying to persuade Paul Scholes out of international retirement and only failed at the last minute. I’m sorry, am I missing something here? What is Capello thinking? Not only do these two not want to play for their country, but they’re not exactly in the form of their lives for their clubs either. Hopefully he will come to his senses before naming the final 23 in June.
Just to top it all off, within hours of David Beckham presenting England’s bid book to FIFA President Sepp Blatter for the 2018 World Cup, the Mail on Sunday newspaper leads with a scandal involving Lord Triesman. The F.A. Chairman and main man in the 2018 bid was caught in a Gordon Brown-style sting having been heard on camera in a private conversation discussing rival bidders – a certain taboo – and accusing Spain and Russia of collusion (to put it politely). Triesman was forced to stand down, quite rightly, and the F.A. were launched into a damage limitation exercise with apologies being sent to all parties involved.
Not only does it beg the question of Lord Triesman, but what on earth were the Mail On Sunday thinking by printing the story in the first place? It has quite possibly ruined any chance England had of winning the bid for the 2018 World Cup, it has cost a man his job (it was a private conversation, after all), and could potentially cost the nation billions in much needed revenue. And all for what? An extra few copies being sold on a Sunday? They, and the judge the F.A. went to to try and stop the story from being printed, said it was in the public interest. How exactly?
What were you thinking?