, , , , , , , , ,

A few weeks ago I bought Capello: The Man Behind England’s World Cup Dream. Granted, it was already a tournament out of date, in the remaindered section and only cost me 99 pence but I can’t help feeling a bit miffed. I was going to read it in preparation for the Euros this summer but it will now have to serve as a historical document after Fabio unexpectedly quit as England manager.

Seemingly the FA’s decision to deselect John Terry as England captain is at the crux of Capello’s resignation. But Terry being stripped of the England captaincy seems to be an annual event, so I am not totally convinced that this is about a point of principle or a compromise of the Italian’s autonomy. Perhaps it suits Capello to quit now, he does not lose much financially as he only had a few months left on his contract anyhow. He is spared any of the unpleasantness that Euro 2012 may bring and no doubt he is also tired of the constant media accusations of being Italian and looking a bit too stern.

The departure of the man who is statistically the best manager that England have ever had in competitive games appears to have bought widespread relief and delight, which is obviously a bit odd. The periods when England have had a good coach like Capello, Eriksson or Robson we have qualified easily for tournaments and sometimes won a  game or two in the knockout rounds. When we have had a guy who is out of his depth like McLaren, Keegan or Taylor we don’t get past the group stages of the tournament and sometimes we don’t even qualify at all.

For nigh on half a century the England football team has been stuck between these two limits. This must be very strong evidence that the reasons why England do not do better than they do (and I am not saying that they should do better, although I would certainly like them to) go much deeper and wider than the man who is picking the team at any given point. However the obsession with the short term will mean that debate will always be subordinate to the here and now but less important issues like who is going to be the next manager and who should be the captain. Only in order to emphasise this short termism, I will ignore the real debate (saved for another day) and concentrate on the present matters.

For the FA to be left without a manager, and indeed a captain, just a few months before a major tournament could be seen as the clinching proof that they are a bunch of clueless fuckers and who am I to argue with that? So who should the FA turn to? A quick assessment of some of the candidates.

The newly Innocent Harry Redknapp (stop sniggering) is the overwhelming favourite with just about everybody. Apart from me. I believe that international football is all about tactical acuity and meticulous planning and I am not sure that these are Redknapp’s strengths. In one respect it would be very interesting if he did get the job as the England manager with or without good cause is very often undermined by the media. ‘In The Name Of Allah, Go’ is a headline suffered by Sir Bobby Robson after drawing in a friendly with Saudi Arabia for example.

Redknapp has a ‘close’ going on incestuous relationship with the media. It was scarcely believable that a high profile football manager could be standing in a criminal trial with hardly a negative headline.  The easy ride he will get if he is appointed might actually help the team in terms of shielding it from the usual barrage of criticism and negativity that always surfaces after a honeymoon period or after pre tournament hype. However I do not think that is a good reason to make him the manager and I am sure his mates in the media would turn on him in the end anyway.

Guus Hiddink would provide a short term boost but he is more or less semi retired these days and recent failures with Russia and Turkey have dulled his appeal somewhat. Roy Hodgson, too boring a prospect to give any real thought too. Stuart Pearce, fuck off.

I would propose a man who got a slightly above average team to over perform wildly in a group stage/knockout tournament, exactly the task he would have with England as well. A man who is fully conversant with English football but has also managed in other countries, so he has wide experience. He speaks English at least as fluently as Harry Redknapp and he is already settled in this country. That man is Rafael Benitez.

In a fully scientific poll carried out by me this morning 100% of my friends who bothered to reply to my emails said that I was talking nonsense and that they just didn’t rate him. Interestingly however none of them could really explain why, I think he is poorly perceived because he looks like a fat Spanish waiter. However this is to ignore his considerable strengths as a manager, which to my mind are ideally suited to the international arena and especially to England as explained above. He is an arch pragmatist who will not care about the niceties of getting the job done as long as the job gets done. What I am saying is that he is quite a lot like Fabio Capello really. As such, he would be a good bet to get us to the Quarter Finals or maybe even the Semis of Euro 2012.

by Nilesh Bhagat

Editor’s note: An interesting shout there, and anyone who can perform magic (below) should be in the reckoning…


And if you were wondering what really happened on Wednesday, here’s one possible explanation…