What a difference two years make. In November, 2007, England succumbed to Croatia at Wembley by a scoreline of 2-3 and thus surrendered their qualifying for Euro 2008. Cue the images of a fumbling Steve McClaren and an England team with so little confidence. Croatia, meanwhile, looked like world beaters.
Yesterday, it was a different story entirely and it was England who looked like world beaters while Croatia were completely outplayed.
In previous years, many EPL Talk readers had asked my opinion about why England were so poor and whether the England national team should still be considered a football power or not. At the time, it was quite perplexing. Was it the players who were that poor, but how could they fail so miserably in a mid-week yet play next to some of the best players in the world on the weekend in the Premier League?
When Fabio Capello was appointed England manager, people asked me what my thoughts were on the matter. My viewpoint at the time was that it would bring clarity to whether the England national team was still a football power or not. After all, if Capello couldn’t turn England into a winning football team, then no one could.
Thankfully for England fans (and anglophiles), Capello has completely turned England around from a team that had difficulty beating Andorra to one that is being touted as possibly the next World Cup champions. Capello’s dramatic transformation of the England team confirms that the English football managers before him were rubbish — namely Steve McClaren and Kevin Keegan.
My hope is that those England footballers who have aspirations of being football managers, who are playing under Fabio Capello, are acting like sponges and picking up on how Capello manages — everything from tactics to how he handles a dressing room to man-management and team selection. Players who I can see becoming managers in a decade from now include John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey.
Based on Capello’s immediate success, it’s going to be several years before the Football Association picks an English manager to run the team again. Sure, Capello hasn’t achieved anything yet other than qualifying for the World Cup. But even after Capello steps down from the England job, there will assuredly be another foreigner to step into his shoes to continue moving England forward. But at some point in the distant future, I can guarantee that one of Capello’s current crop of players will step up and become England manager, combining his personal style with a lot of the management skills and tactics that were learned from 2007 onwards.