Oh, to be fly on the wall when Fabio Capello meets the England squad for the first time, if only to see the look on Michael Owen’s face. This is, at least, a man that has been there, seen it, done it and almost certainly won it and, in that respect if nothing else, it throws into sharp focus what an amazingly bad appointment Steve McClaren was. It’s worth remembering that the people that appointed him are still there, grafting away in the background. Did it really take getting knocked out of the European Championships at the qualifying stages to beat some sense into these people?
First, then, the criticism. Capello may well be no fan of the ego of the modern player, so will this cause major problems in the England dressing room? There’s a good chance that it will. However, if he’s on a reported £4m a year, he can at least look the players square in the eye and say “I am at least as good at my job as you are at yours”, and if David Beckham was hounded out of Madrid by a Real president hell bent on providing a scapegoat for their lack of success over the last couple of years, Capello was the man big enough to realise the mistake and bring him back for one last Indian summer.
You could also make a cogent argument for saying that Capello’s greatest triumph of all, the extraordinary Milan side that made Barcelona look like a Sunday League team in the 1994 European Cup final, was a long time ago, and that his record in Europe since then has been mixed. However you have to counter that argument by saying, well, what a team that Milan team was, and it was a team that was at least packed with as much ego as the current England team is.
On the plus side, he is utterly ruthless. There is no question that he will not be interested in the press prying into his private life, and media attacks on him will be like water off a duck’s back. It certainly seems to me that England need a coach with a sense of detachment from the position, who isn’t going to bow to public or media pressure. Could you, for a single second, imagine Capello having put Scott Carson in goal for the Croatia match? Also, there is the fear factor. Whereas McClaren, somewhat pathetically, always seemed to want the players to be his friends (you don’t need me to tell you how, well, weird it looked when he was caught in post-match interviews referring to Steven Gerrard as “Stevie G”), Capello is almost pathological in his desire to bring results and silverware. This is a man that has squared up to Paolo Di Canio. He is utterly fearless, yet never gets blinded by anger.
He’s got a year off first, of course. A chance to run his finger over the slim pickings at his disposal and impose his will on a crest-fallen squad. At least you know that, with Capello, it’s going to be interesting, and we will know for certain in two years time whether the problems within the current England set up were relating to the coaching staff all along, or whether there are more serious and long-term problems within English football that need to be invested in.