So, Fabio Capello quits as the England national coach. This is, perhaps, unsurprising considering the dog’s abuse that he has taken while leading the national team through an almost flawless qualification campaign, before finding that the decision over who would take the England captain’s arm-band was taken away from him without consultation. It may be some time before we find out exactly what was said at this afternoon’s meeting between Capello and the FA chairman David Bernstein from the FA itself, but Capello might not be so tight-lipped – it has it already been reported that Capello has this evening told the press that, “The England FA really insulted me and damaged my authority.” The FA’s statement on the subject is, perhaps predictably, giving little away on the subject in its official statement on the matter, other than that his resignation was tendered and accepted. The whys and wherefores, however, are probably for another day. The effect remains the same. Yet again, the England manager’s seat is empty and the FA look s little foolish, even if they were acting with the best of intentions over the John Terry matter.
With this, the fevered speculation begins again. Harry Redknapp, who was acquitted of tax evasion charges earlier today, will doubtlessly be the bookmakers’ favourite for the job, but nothing is decided yet and the FA may choose to put a caretaker in place until after this summer’s European Championships. None of this will stop the speculation of course, though some of the names put forward so far have been less than serious – in the last half an hour on Twitter, Gunnersaurus, Bryan Robson and the cat that got onto the pitch during the match between Liverpool and Spurs on Monday night have all been suggested for the role – but the question of where the FA goes from here is an intriguing one. The likes of Guus Hiddink might be a more sensible suggestion, but this wouldn’t placate those who believe that the England manager should, for whatever reason, be English.
Ultimately, though, it may be worth considering that the England manager’s job may now well be football’s ultimate poisoned chalice. Since the managership of the England job became a matter of more than merely turning up to meetings with the FA’s antiquated Selection Committee, doffing one’s cap and taking the sheet of paper upon which was written the names of the next team, England managers have come and gone, with the notable exception of Alf Ramsey, with the reputations largely diminished. There have been some good managers in there – Don Revie, Ron Greenwood and Sven Goran Eriksson are amongst the capable that have left with their reputations tarnished and only one – Bobby Robson – departed the job with a reputation intact – and there is an element of revisionism in that, on the part of the press at least. It may be worth reflecting upon the fact that the England job has taken yet another manager who has been a success throughout his career, and turned him into a failure.
Managing England remains, however, a hopelessly thankless task. It’s difficult to imagine that there could be a club equivalent, although perhaps asking a newly-appointed manager of Aston Villa to win the Champions League within two years and ridiculing him when he fails to do so comes close. And, no matter what one’s opinion of Capello might be, it’s not difficult to build a case for saying that the question of who the manager may or may not be could even be, broadly speaking, irrelevant. Until structural issues relating to the coaching and upbringing of young players, the paucity of coaches, the wilder excesses of elements of the press and the negative image of the national team – especially in the eyes of the supporters of the biggest clubs – who exactly the coach is will remain a relative irrelevance. In the meantime, we can bring you an opportunity to have a look at some outside contenders for the job now. The man himself might have gone, but Brian Barwick’s spirit lives on in the form of the Barwick-O-Tron, a computer which calculates some of the most important attributes for this particular job and selects a new coach and assistant coach. You never know. It might just come up trumps.
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