Capello back in the England spotlight
Fabio Capello’s less than spectacular start to life as England coach has been forgotten of late, as the back pages have been dominated by the petrodollars at Manchester City, the mysterious goings on at Newcastle, where Kevin Keegan has not been seen for three days, and Alan Curbishley’s sudden resignation as West Ham manager.
With World Cup qualifiers coming up against Andorra and Croatia Capello will soon have everyone’s attention again … and he is about to discover the size of the task that awaits him.
The Italian was given a tough time by England’s ruthless football writers after an unimpressive 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic last month, when most of the country’s eyes were focused on the battle for gold medals in Beijing.
Only a 10-0 victory against Andorra in Barcelona is likely to gain him plaudits in Sunday’s papers and should England suffer a third consecutive defeat by Croatia, the team that haunted their doomed attempt to qualify for Euro 2008, all hell will break loose.
The Italian has put his head squarely on the chopping block by choosing a squad without the country’s best striker, Michael Owen.
The four strikers he has selected, Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe, have managed just 24 goals between them for England. Owen has 40 on his own.
While Capello could select a bunch of park strikers to beat Andorra, not even considering Owen for the Croatia match, one that could determine the outcome of a tough but not daunting group, could come back to haunt the coach.
Sadly for England, just as the domestic game gets richer and richer, the cupboard looks increasingly bare at international level.
With Steven Gerrard injured there is a real possibility that Fulham’s Jimmy Bullard, an honest player but hardly one to set the pulse racing, could be called in to play a midfield role in Zagreb after his shock call-up.
In some ways that is a refreshing prospect.
With all the money sloshing around the Premier League, the idea that a bloke who learned the game playing non-league football in the Thames estuary can be England’s knight in shining armour restores a little faith in the beautiful game.