Monday, June 21, 2010
Doubters failing to understand Capello
There has been an awful lot of rubbish talked by so-called experts in the media over the last few days. Before they spout that rubbish, why don't they actually ask the Capello camp what the score is so that they can give informed opinions? That's what I've done through the contacts built up while writing my book on the England manager - Fabio Capello: The Boss.
Former England manager Graham Taylor is a chief culprit. Taylor - who failed to take England to the 1994 World Cup - has hit out at Capello for failing to name his team sufficiently early. Taylor wonders how on earth England's players can prepare properly for matches in tactical terms if the team is unknown. How can they work together as a unit on the training field? He seems to prefer to moan from a position of ignorance instead of picking up a phone to discover the reality.
If Taylor and the others asked, they would know what really goes on. And the Capello camp would tell him that the England players can be - indeed should be - 95% certain of who is going to play a full two or three days before a match.
An England footballer would have to be blind not to realise how the team is going to line up from the nature of the work done out on the training pitch. That is because the starting ten outfielders for the next match are put together - sometimes in sub-units, sometimes all together - to develop cohesion in training during the days before a game. They play against the 'dirt-trackers' who clearly won't start.
There can always be an injury, or someone can storm through on the rails to stake a claim - it would be a weird set-up if that wasn't the case. But let's dismiss this myth that everything is shrouded in mystery and confusion.
Only the goalkeeper doesn't know if he is playing until relatively late in the process, but even he should have worked it out by the night before - the favoured No. 1 will be playing behind the favoured back four for more time in training than the other 'keepers. When Capello announces the team hours before the match, it is only a confirmation of what the squad should know already.
Then there are reports the players are being sent out of their minds with boredom because there is nothing for them to do. Rubbish. They have been playing golf every other day. They have been on safari. They have been to Robben Island, where they should have realised what it is really like to be locked up all day in a tiny room. The England players have been allowed to relax as much as most tourists do on an ordinary holiday to South Africa. And, in case they need reminding, the England players are not on holiday. They are there for the biggest sporting challenge of their lives.
If Capello has failed in any area, though, it is in failing to accept the mental fragility of the England footballer. They need more love and understanding. They need more personal contact with him - not just with his No. 2, Franco Baldini. They need to feel they can express themselves more freely. That is how to improve team spirit.
But there has been no coup. There was a brave plea from John Terry for some serious two-way dialogue over what is going wrong. Contrary to what has been reported, Capello welcomes that. He is intelligent enough to know when it is time for a group of men to clear the air. That process will happen before the final match against Slovenia, and Capello will decide when it happens - not the players. But they will find him flexible, willing to listen, and forgiving. Capello does not hold grudges. He will do what is best for the team in any situation.
I fell out with Capello once during the writing of the book. I feared I would never get any help from him again. I was wrong. He answered another 60 questions just a week or two after our low-point. He doesn't bear grudges, especially if he thinks his so-called opponent has made a reasonable point. It is time that the England players understood the character of their coach better. There is scope for improving this situation. There will be, over the hours to come, the opportunity to make their feelings felt, and even make a case for Joe Cole, for example.
Back in his Real Madrid days, there was a similar crisis when Capello dropped David Beckham for no apparent reason. Eventually, he listened and brought Beckham back into the fold before it was too late. Real Madrid won the league that year. England can still do well at this World Cup, too. A point made honestly by any player in the interests of England's World Cup will be respected.
Capello is big enough to change his mind and swallow his pride when it is necessary, but subversion and disrespect will not be tolerated. As long as England players stay the right side of that fine line, all will be well.
Mark Ryan is author of Fabio Capello: The Boss (J.R. Books) - priced £9.99