The great thing about football is that it is a never-ending soap opera. One tournament draws to a conclusion and it’s not long before another begins. In a little over a week, the Under 19s European Championship gets underway with England playing a potentially tough trio of Austria, Holland and France and in around seven weeks, the senior side will begin their own European campaign towards 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
So the drama is set to start all over again for the national side. Only this time there’s a different dynamic underlying it all; the 2010 World Cup debacle.
Capello’s capital with the British press is all but exhausted. This shouldn’t matter at all, after all, what does the press know about anything, but in England it really does matter. The tabloid press seems to dictate how many people think and a sustained campaign against a manager usually sees the FA cave in to what the tabloids would self-reverentially call ‘popular demand’ for a change.
Capello’s problem is that any poor result or even a poor performance is going to immediately lead to calls for his head. Opening games home to Bulgaria and away to Switzerland is exactly the kind of games that it’s easy to emerge with just one point from. If that’s the case, you can expect Capello’s position to be unsustainable.
He has to win both games convincingly, failure to do so will open so many wounds, that it will be fatal for him. He’s got to change the team, change the tactics and win impressively from the get go. That’s a big ask.
I’m all for Capello carrying on, figuring that if you no-one is allowed to learn from mistakes then England is doomed to repeat them over and over again. But I know how the media works in England and Capello is one step away from being a dead man walking.
He has the additional problem that players know this too. They can probably afford to lose a game and draw one and still qualify, Capello cannot. So what better way to get a manager that you don’t like, the sack? One hapless performance against Bulgaria could do it.
Capello must already be weighing up who amongst the playing staff are his allies and who are the enemies. He’s fortunate in that the public’s belief in the players is at an all time low and that given every England manager is appointed as the antidote to the previous one, there simply isn’t an English manager who commands enough respect, has enough top rank experience and isn’t mired in legal matters to obviously replace him.
The hysterical laughter that greeted the suggestion from The Sun’s Sean Custis to make Beckham manager may yet come back to haunt us all. There’s a scenario just around the corner where The FA, needing some positive headlines and lacking any credible candidate but pressured to replace a dastardly foreigner who is being berated by a feral tabloid media, turns to a much loved national figure to save the day. Believe me, it could happen, even though it would be certifiably bonkers.
Watching England’s national side has always been like watching a soap opera and I have strong feeling that some dramatic plot twists lie just around the corner. Perhaps we’ll wake up soon and discover the 2010 World Cup was all just a bad dream.